posted on 4-Nov-2002 10:50:56 AM
Summary: Liz and Michael have been dating for 10 months and are living together in New York. Their happy relationship is suddenly threatened when she begins withdrawing from him without explanation. Can he break through the walls she has erected and convince her "not to go"?

Author's Notes: This is the sequel to Falling Into You. It takes place four months after that fic ended and is based on another Kasey Chambers song, Don't Go. You can read Falling Into You for the background, but basically Michael and Liz have overcome enormous obstacles to be together and are finally enjoying happiness together in New York where Liz attends Columbia and Michael works at MetaChem. Their roommates are Samantha and Karen, two fellow students at Columbia. Liz also has powers, a "gift" from Max when he healed her.

Part 1

Michael pulled himself regretfully out of his dreamscape, crashing back into the unwelcome plane of reality. He willed his body to find sleep again, squeezing his eyes shut to ban the persistent rays of sunlight that threatened to penetrate. He rolled onto his left side, his right arm hesitating for a moment before snaking out across the bed. He fingered the impression her body had made on the mattress, wincing as his hand felt the coolness of the vacated bed rather than the warmth of the body he prayed still lay there.

He sighed as he rolled onto his back, blocking the sun with his arm as he blinked his eyes open. He heard the distinctive sounds of her at work on her laptop in the next room, a wedge being driven further between them with each tap on the keys.

Sighing, he swung his legs over the side of the bed, reaching down to grab a worn T-Shirt from the floor. He pulled it over his head as he walked from the bedroom to the living room, pausing to look at her crouched form kneeling at the coffee table.

"You're up early," he commented, glancing at the VCR clock where 7:04 AM was displayed menacingly.

"Mm-hmm," she mumbled, running her hand quickly along the page of her text book before turning back to the laptop in front of her.

He stared at her for another moment, hesitating before trying again, "Assignment?"

"Research."

"Oh, something important," he muttered under his breath, his hand slapping hard against the door as he moved into the kitchen. He grabbed a mug from the cupboard, filling it from the coffee pot before adding Tabasco and sugar. He took an angry sip of the black drink, immediately spitting it into the sink as his mouth was scalded by the hot liquid.

"Fvck," he cursed, pressing his hand to his mouth in an effort to calm the screaming burns. The pain was compounded as he stared at Liz's bent head through the pass through window. His cure lay in one tender kiss from her, all injuries made nothing but a memory when she graced him with her developing healing powers.

But that wasn't happening, not this day. It was kind of hard to ask for a kiss from someone who hadn't spoken more than 10 words to you in over a week.

Michael cast aside his coffee in favor of a glass of water, settling for the temporary relief it brought his tortured mouth. He tried to remember exactly when the tension between them had started – a week ago, 10 days? She had finished the winter semester a few weeks ago and it had seemed as though their relationship had never been in a better place. Their roommate Samantha had made plans to spend two weeks at her parent's cottage on Martha's Vinyard and at the last minute Liz had convinced him to put in for holidays at work and they had taken off with Sam and her boyfriend. The two weeks they spent there had been exactly what they needed to rejuvenate their love for each other, dividing their days equally between making love in bed and lounging in each other's arms on the beach.

They had been back now for just over a week and Liz had immediately thrown herself back into her schoolwork, working just as hard on the two summer courses she was taking as she had on the six she studied last term. She had also been quieter, distant, and asking her what was wrong had only earned him an impatient sigh and the repetitive excuses that she was just busy or tired.

He sighed himself as he rubbed his tired eyes and picked up his coffee to try another sip. Carrying it into the bedroom, he avoiding looking at her in the feeble attempt to turn his mind to a different subject. He showered and dressed for work quickly, needing to escape the oppressing discord that hung between them. He passed her studious form as he walked through the living room, stopping at the doorway to offer a quiet, "See you tonight."

Liz nodded distractedly, not looking up from the task in front of her. She listened as he stepped into the hallway, slamming the door shut behind him in a violent gesture that caused her entire body to jerk away from the table. She pulled her legs snugly into her chest, burying her head in her knees as the familiar coldness of her core reached out its icy tentacles to squeeze her heart just a little tighter. It had been 10 days since they had returned from vacation; 10 days since their last romantic kiss; 10 days since their last intimate evening; 10 days since she had found out the terrible truth; 10 days since she had been able to look him in the eye. She hugged her legs closer to her body, shivering as the haunting thoughts once more danced across her mind. Either it would be over in four days or it would never be. Four days or forever – soon she would know.

~~~~~

Michael scowled as the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the tie-breaking goal at 59:52 of regulation time, virtually ensuring their victory over the New York Rangers as they opened a 1 goal lead with only 8 seconds of ice time remaining. He watched through half-closed eyes as the clock wound down on the frantic players, wincing as the puck left Mats Sundin's stick, heading towards the empty net just as the final whistle blew.

4-2 Toronto – sucks.

He jabbed at the power button on the remote, sending the room into simultaneous darkness and silence as he lay beneath the sheets breathing heavily. Liz was still up, somewhere in the house pouring her energy into one of a hundred school-related tasks. His brain idly thought that perhaps he should enroll in Columbia himself, maybe then she'd consider him to be school-related as well.

He punched his pillow angrily, balling it beneath his head as he rolled over to face her empty side of the bed. He couldn't remember the last time she had fallen asleep beside him, always generating an excuse to stay up just a little longer. If it wasn't for the blankets on her side of the bed being somewhat tousled in the morning, he wouldn't have known if she lay beside him at all since she was always up and studying before he awoke.

He closed his eyes tightly, willing sleep to release him from the confusing reality he had somehow fallen into. The problem between them was simple – she was pushing him away in favor of her schoolwork. The fact that she hadn't done that in either of her two previous terms escaped him and he fell asleep counting the days that remained until her mid-term break.

After hearing the TV descend into silence, Liz waited for 30 minutes before quietly tiptoeing into the bedroom. She turned on the light in the adjoining bathroom, turning to stare across the room at his sleeping face outlined in the soft glow. Her stomach clenched in a tight knot as she gazed upon his peaceful features. He didn't deserve this, he had done nothing to earn the silent rebukes she threw at him daily. This problem was hers, and hers alone, and she realized suddenly that in her quest to exclude him, she had actually drawn him in further. Of course he would know that something was wrong with her, they had been together for 10 months now and the intimacy of their love-making alone had taken their relationship to a level not previously known to exist.

Her face trembled as she turned out the light and padded softly to the bed. Peeling back the covers, she climbed in beside him, pressing her back against his chest in a desperate attempt to feel his presence around her. He responded with natural instincts, reaching out from within his unconscious state to pull her closer to him, burying his face in her neck as he planted a soft kiss along her shoulder.

"Night babe," he murmured.

Liz tensed as he moved beside her, then forced her body to relax in his encompassing embrace. "Good night," she whispered, a lone tear snaking its way down her face before she angrily brushed it away. No tears, she commanded silently. You brought this on yourself and you will not cry about it, she lectured, her heart freezing just a little more in her chest as she denied her body the anguish it so desperately ached to express.

She pulled Michael's arm closer around her, surprising herself when the ever elusive sleep moved in to claim her harried brain. That night she achieved a peaceful slumber in the arms of her boyfriend, waking up alone in their bed the next morning after Michael had already left for work. She stumbled into the washroom, stopping abruptly to stare at the writing on the fog covered mirror.

I Love You
M.


She buried her face in her hands and wept.

[ edited 9 time(s), last at 21-Jan-2003 6:32:45 AM ]
posted on 6-Nov-2002 11:56:11 AM
Hey there,

Thanks for all the feedback. You'll find out what's up with Liz in this part. As for the quickness of the sequel, I actually finished writing Falling Into You back in August but never posted it here. So, you all benefit from getting to read the first story just days ago whereas some people have been waiting for 2 months to read it!

Sherry


Part 2

"Who wants Thai?" Michael called out as he entered their apartment that evening.

He had been stirred into a rapt silence that morning when he awoke to find Liz cuddled in his arms. He had almost been late for work because of her, choosing to lie there staring at her until he was 20 minutes behind schedule and had to grab a quick shower before leaving. All day she had never been far from his thoughts; his mind anywhere but on the security detail in front of him. He was sure that things were better between them, and to celebrate, he had stopped to pick up their favorite take-out food from "New Thailand" – this fantastic family-owned Thai restaurant just down the street from their apartment.

"I do, I do," he heard Sam call from the living room. The blonde girl bounded towards him to take the bags from his hand, Karen following excitedly behind her.

"Wow, Michael," Sam exclaimed when she opened the bags in the kitchen. "What army are you trying to feed?"

"I just got one of everything good," he explained, pausing to peer through the kitchen pass-through window at the two girls. "Where's Liz?" he asked quickly, looking around to see no sign of her familiar work setup at the coffee table.

"Oh, library," Karen mumbled, her mouth already filled with a bursting spring roll.

"She said she'd be late," Sam added. "Not to wait up."

Michael listened quietly to the girl's explanation of Liz's absence and abruptly turned away from them, headed for his bedroom. He returned minutes later, changed into blue jeans and a black T-shirt, shrugging into his leather jacket as he walked out. The girls looked up as he passed, confusion evident on their faces as he hurriedly laced up his worn boots at the door.

"You're not eating?" Sam asked.

"Lost my appetite," he replied roughly.

"Okay," she replied slowly. "Well, should I tell Liz where you're going?"

"No," he responded, turning to open the apartment door. He hesitated for a moment, his hand still on the doorknob, his back towards the girls. "Tell her," he added. "Tell her not to wait up."

With his final words he pulled the door shut behind him violently. Karen jumped visibly at the sudden noise, staring at the closed door for a full minute after he left.

"What is up with him?" she asked.

"I don't know," Sam replied thoughtfully. "But whatever it is, it's 'up' with both of them."

"Well something's got to give. They've been in ignore mode for over a week now."

"I know," Sam replied slowly, her brain racing to try and figure out what was wrong with her two roommates. She had no clue as to what the actual problem was but as soon as she got Liz alone she intended to ask her. She had seen firsthand the effect one separation had had on both of them and she didn't intend to be living with them when and if it happened again.

"I'll talk to Liz," she finally said. "I'm sure it's nothing."

Her voice betrayed her true fears, but she smiled at Karen anyway, changing the subject to talk about the rerun of Roseanne TBS was showing yet again, her mind churning as she pondered the problem before her.

~~~~~

The university library closed at 11 and by the time Liz got home at 11:30, the apartment was dark. She walked through the hallway quietly, pushing open her bedroom door slowly so as to not wake her sleeping boyfriend. She stopped suddenly when she looked at the bed, surprised to see it still made from that morning and Michael nowhere in sight.

She turned on the light then, striding quickly across the room to their closet. She noticed his leather jacket missing from its hook on the inside of the door and knew he must have gone out after work. That was so unlike him, he hardly went out with the guys at all, let alone on a weeknight. Even when she was studying, he would just read or paint until she was ready for bed and then they'd fall asleep together.

Yeah, but what's he waiting around for, she asked herself. It's not like you've been paying him any attention lately.

She hushed the chiding voice inside her head, telling herself she had a good reason to be acting the way she was. Every fiber in her being told her she was lying to herself, but she struggled to ignore the instinct, telling herself again that she just had to wait until she found out, then she could decide if she was going to tell him or not.

She walked into the bathroom, pulling her make-up bag out from the vanity. It was only two more days anyway, it was Thursday night and on Sunday she'd know for sure, then she'd tell him, right?

Whatever.

She shook her head as she opened her bag and reached in to clasp her hand around the slim pink object. She pulled it out and opened it slowly, her eyes squinting as she looked down at the circular item in front of her. She could easily count how many were left – only three – but she started at the beginning again anyway, counting one by one until she reached the end of the empty plastic shells.

18.

18 empty places where once there was an item.

18 empty places where once there was the solution to her problems.

18 empty places representing 18 days that she had foolishly embarked upon after stupidly forgetting days one through seven.

Liz reached up with a shaky hand and pushed the miniature pill from the space marked day 19. She held the case over the toilet as she did and the tiny pill fell with a thunderous 'plop' into the blue tinted water.

She stared at the case in her hand. Counting again to get an updated total – 19. 19 empty places representing 19 empty days.

19 empty places representing 19 days without birth control.

19 empty places representing 19 days that she was vulnerable to becoming pregnant.

Of course, that would only happen if her and Michael had sex, right?

Right. And Liz and Michael had had sex – a lot.

It had all started so innocently. She had been taking birth control since right after their first time together, almost 8 months ago. She took 21 pills every month, stopping on the day before her period started, always a Saturday night, and starting again on the following Sunday. It was easy to remember to take them, it had become part of her nightly routine and she hadn't missed one day.

Not one – until 19 days ago.

She had finished her package for April just as exams were ending. They had decided at the last moment to take off to Martha's Vineyard with Sam and her boyfriend, and in her excitement she had hurriedly packed her bags, not stopping to make sure she took her next package with her.

Not that it would have mattered. In the two weeks they were there she didn't think about the tiny pills once. Not on the Sunday following her period when she should have started, not every night during her routine when she got ready for bed, and not when her and Michael made love – every day… sometimes twice.

It had already been day 8 when they returned from vacation on Sunday afternoon and she had noticed the case sitting innocently on her bathroom counter when she went to unpack her toiletries. Her immediate reaction had been to take a pill – to take all seven if that was what she had missed, but once she had punched out the seven tiny offenders she had stood still in the bathroom for a long moment. She was fully aware of the practice of taking a missed pill as soon as you realized it, but seven? She didn't think you were supposed to take seven.

Besides, by now she could already be… No, she couldn’t be, it wasn't possible… but still, what if she was and she took seven? At that thought she had almost swallowed all of them without water, her brain racing to give her a quick excuse to remedy the terrible mistake she had most likely made.

She recovered from her momentary lack of sanity quickly and stood over the toilet silently; dropping the pills into the water one by one. Plop, plop, plop. One plop for each day that she had left herself open to becoming pregnant. One plop for each day that she had exposed both herself and Michael to a radically different path then the one they had planned for themselves.

She had turned back to the package of 14 pills sitting on the counter and reached towards them slowly, wanting to punch every one of them out right now and 'plop' them into the toilet with the others. She hesitated with pill 8 halfway out of it's packaging, deciding instead that it would be good to punch one pill each day. It would help her keep track of the countdown to the day she could next expect her period, and also keep her in practice for the next pack of pills. Because she would have to take pills again next month. Because she wouldn't be pregnant – she couldn’t be.

She had just pressed the handle on the toilet, watching the tiny pills swirl into oblivion with the rushing water, when Michael entered the bathroom.

"Hi," she yelped as she heard him enter, turning around to face him as she hid the package of pills behind her back.

"Hello," he said slowly, tossing her a look that said she was acting just a little weird. He stepped in to wrap his arms around her waist, looking down at her through the tangle of hair falling in front of his face. "I am not ready for that vacation to be over."

"Me either," she mumbled, returning the kiss he leaned down to offer her while struggling to hide the tears that threatened to fall from her eyes.

"It doesn't have to end," he whispered against her neck seductively, trailing a stream of kisses along her collar bone.

"Mmm, Michael," she murmured, wiggling away from him. "I've got classes tomorrow, I've got to get my stuff together."

If he was hurt by the comment, he hid it well, stealing one more kiss from her lips before walking back into the bedroom. She closed the bathroom door behind him, turning to lean against it heavily. The tears she fought to hide threatened to spill once more and she swiped at her damp eyes.

"Don’t you dare," she whispered fiercely. "You brought this on yourself, don't you dare cry about it."

And she didn't. Not then, and not since. Not really anyway, not the way she could have. Instead she just turned off her emotions, all of them. She pushed excuses of homework and tiredness between herself and Michael, creating a space between them that even his most persistent gestures couldn't cross. She had kept him at bay for almost two weeks now, not sleeping with him once in that time. She couldn't. If she did she'd have to tell him what she had done and she was not prepared to do that. No, she would just wait two more days, then she'd know for sure and if she wasn't pregnant he would never have to know, right?

Liz reached out with a shaky hand to flush pill 19 down the toilet. She placed the remaining pills back in her make-up bag and zipped it tightly, then finished getting ready for bed, padding across the room to turn out the light before slipping beneath the covers. She tried to fall asleep but the absence of Michael in the bed made it impossible. She lay there in the shadowy room, alone with her thoughts until she heard him stumbling in an hour later.

She closed her eyes as he entered the room noisily, praying that he would assume she was asleep and just crawl in beside her. Her prayers were shattered at the sudden sound of his voice.

"Get up, we're talking."
posted on 7-Nov-2002 1:47:45 PM
You wanted more... *happy*

Part 3

"Get up, we're talking."

Liz's body froze at the sound of Michael's voice and she hesitated before rolling over slowly. She opened her eyes against the sudden brightness of the room and blinked to focus on her boyfriend. He was standing in the doorway, swaying unsteadily on his feet as he glared at her.

"I want to know what's been going on with you, and I want to know it right now," he commanded, stumbling as he stepped into their bedroom and collapsed in a chair beside the door.

"Have you been drinking?" she asked slowly, standing up from the bed to pull her robe around her shoulders.

"Liquid courage, right?" he said, looking up at her defiantly.

She could see that his eyes were glazed over and they wavered back and forth in their sockets as she approached him. "How much did you have?" she asked with concern. She had seen first hand what alcohol had done to Max in the past and that story had always been enough reason for Michael to avoid drinking altogether.

"One."

"One what? One mouthful?"

"One beer."

"Michael!" she exclaimed. "Max had like a sip and was blasting his powers everywhere."

"Well maybe Maxine can't hold his liquor," he slurred, his head back falling backwards to bounce off the wall with a dull thud. "Ow," he mumbled.

"Here," Liz instructed, reaching towards him to pull his jacket from his shoulders. He protested but she knelt on the floor in front of him and leaned his body against hers as she peeled the leather from his arms. Next came his T-shirt, which would have been an easy task if he didn't keep moving his hands up to help her. Then she unlaced his boots and pulled them from his feet, standing up to lean over him. "Now the jeans. Come on."

"No," he muttered, swiping at her fingers as they struggled with his buttons.

"Fine," she said, turning to walk away from him. "Sleep in 'em, see if I care." Her anger at him was obvious and for a second she forgot that he was the one who was angry at her. That knowledge came rushing back to her as he reached out quickly to grab her arm, pinching it tightly with his hand.

"Ow, you're hurting me," she said loudly, reaching up with her other hand to pry his fingers open.

"Yeah, well you're hurting me," he shot back at her. He released her arm, revealing the imprints of his fingers where he had grabbed her.

She rubbed it gingerly, stepping backwards out of his reach until she backed up against the bed. "I am not trying to hurt you," she said evenly.

"Well you're doing a hell of a job," he muttered, standing up to move towards the bathroom. He wavered on his feet and had to put his hand out against the wall to regain his balance.

"You're drunk," she said under her breath, the disappointment evident in her voice.

"Don't," he cautioned.

"Don't what?" she taunted. "Don't point out the colossal stupidity of your actions? You can't drink Michael, it's not safe."

"What the fvck do you care?" he said to her sharply, stopping his slow progress towards the bathroom to face her. He leaned his back against the wall, leveling his gaze at her menacingly. "You'd be happier if I wasn't here at all."

His hypothesis took the very wind out of her lungs and her mouth gaped open at him. "How can you say that?" she whispered, her voice ravaged by the combination of hurt and anger coursing through her body.

"You haven't spoken more than two words to me in weeks, always pushing me away. You wanna break up? Fine. Let's."

"You'd be willing to give up on us just like that? After everything we've been through?"

"Well, it can't be worth that much to you, now can it?" His head tilted and he smirked his mouth in that peculiar was he had of masking his true feelings with gestures.

She stared at him thoughtfully, blood rushing to her face as she fought to suppress the urge to snap back at him. Instead she inhaled deeply, slowly, and composed herself before responding.

"You have no idea what you are talking about," she said slowly. She could see that he was about to throw back another idiotic response and held up her hand to stop him. "Let me finish," she commanded. "I do not want to break up with you. That is just about the last thing I want to happen."

She paused as she thought about what the actual last thing she wanted to happen was – breaking up with Michael or finding out that she was pregnant. The choice was obvious.

"It is THE last thing I want to happen," she emphasized. "I love you," she continued, her voice cracking despite her best efforts to control it as she spoke. "And I'm sorry if I hurt you. It's not about you, it's about me. I'm just…," she stopped as she fumbled in her brain for what to say to him. She couldn't tell him, could she?

Yes she could, it was easy. She just had to say the words, 'Michael, I think I'm pregnant.'

Yeah, that'll go over great, she thought. Especially in the condition he was in right now. He'd probably blast a hole in the side of the apartment or something.

No, she couldn't tell him, not right now. But she would, she promised herself. She would tell him once he was sober. Or maybe once he had gotten over this fight. She would definitely tell him after he got home from work tomorrow. For sure on Saturday when he was a bit more relaxed.

She suddenly noticed him staring at her expectantly and gulped visibly. "I'm just overwhelmed, truthfully. There's all this stuff going on and I don't have time to focus on the schoolwork I've got to do." It wasn't a lie, she told herself, comforted by the thought. She didn't have time to focus on schoolwork – she was too preoccupied with her irrational fears.

He cursed under his breath and shook his head at her explanation. Same old, same old, he thought.

She saw him disbelieving her and added quickly, "It'll be better soon I promise. I've got a big deadline on Sunday and then it's over. Honest."

At this he met her gaze and she could see him debating whether he was going to believe her or not.

"Sunday?" he asked.

"Sunday," she confirmed, nodding her head.

He pushed off of the wall and moved towards the bathroom again, stopping to lean heavily against the doorframe. From her position near the bed, Liz watched him walk away from her, rubbing her hand quickly over her eyes as she realized what she had just pulled off. She was still supporting her head with her hand when she heard him bang the bathroom door backwards against the wall and snapped her gaze in his direction.

She watched him pause against the doorway for a moment, then lurch forward toward the toilet. She winced as she heard the ragged sounds of his retching, his body purging itself of the vile liquor he had fed it.

Instantly her relief vanished and she was filled with concern for him. So, he brought it on himself by drinking, he was still her boyfriend. "Here, it's okay," she said, walking towards him. She leaned over him at the toilet, pulling his hair out of his face as his body continued to betray him. The foreign substance was expunged from his body quickly but the effects of the alcohol left him heaving, his entire body convulsing as his stomach clenched tightly again and again.

"Come here," she murmured, kneeling beside him and pulling his body away from the toilet towards her lap. Placing her hand on his bare chest she rubbed it in gentle circles. Trails of soft blue light fanned out behind her touches, swirling into unrecognizable patterns across his rippling muscles. His convulsing body slowly ground to a stop, his breathing slowing as she took away the source of his anguish.

"That's better," she whispered, leaning over to press her lips against his forehead. She could see that his sudden sickness had tired him and he was about to fall asleep on the bathroom floor. She nudged him gently, pushing him away from her to stand up.

He allowed himself to be led blindly by her, grateful that he didn't have to think coherently about moving. His head felt so heavy and he was so tired, like he hadn't slept in days, weeks. In a daze he felt the bed behind his legs and sat down, feeling her hands guide him to lay back against the pillows. She worked his jeans off of his body and he didn't even try to help, instead peering through tiny slits in his eyes at her hovering over him.

What had they been fighting about? He couldn't even remember. Just that they were both angry, probably something stupid that he did, he figured. He watched as she stepped away from the bed, turning out the light before walking towards the bathroom.

"No, here," he mumbled, reaching out with his hand to appeal to her.

"I'm coming," she said and he could hear the smile in her voice.

Liz turned off the bathroom light and crossed the room towards their bed. He reached out to melt his body onto hers as soon as she lay down and she permitted every movement, allowing herself to revel in the joy of just lying in his arms for a few moments.

Soon, he was snoring lightly as the lingering effects of his evening overtook him. In the silence she couldn't stop her mind from replaying the earlier events. Her words to him haunting her thoughts – 'I've got a big deadline on Sunday and then it's over. Honest.'

She prayed that she was right, that she really had told him the truth with that statement, but in her ever freezing heart she knew the difference—Elizabeth Parker was pregnant, of that she was convinced.
posted on 12-Nov-2002 12:46:01 PM
Here's more! This part includes the lyrics to Don't Go - my inspiration. Hope you like!

Part 4

Liz woke early on Sunday morning, her body immediately tense with anticipation. Her sleep-riddled brain struggled to remember what today was, what event had her so excited this early. A visible frown fell across her features as she remembered that the feeling in her stomach wasn't excitement at all but trepidation. She rolled over onto her left side, listening to the even sounds of Michael's breathing behind her. Her hands snaked their way under the covers and across her body to her stomach. She pressed her fingers into the soft flesh longingly, pathetically trying to fool herself into feeling the familiar twinge signifying the start of her period. She closed her eyes as she recognized that there was no twinge, no sliver of pain as her body emptied itself of the unneeded material necessary to carry a child.

Quickly she pressed her hand to her mouth to suppress the gulping sob that rose from within her. She didn't need to wait another day, or a week, to realize that she was late and deduce that she must be pregnant. She had always been able to plan her month around the one week she would be 'out of commission' and she knew that if she hadn't started already she wouldn't.

Silently, she slipped out of bed and padded across the room to the bathroom, twisting as she turned on the light to gaze back at Michael's sleeping form still in the bed. Every time she thought about what this would mean to him, she was plunged deeper into her self-created pit of despair. She was by no means prepared to face the reality of bearing a child at 19, but for him she knew that it would mean so much more. For someone who had never had his own family, a child may have been the very thing he was waiting for. More likely though, she thought, for someone who considered himself unworthy of even the slightest form of devotion, he would find the concept of raising a child completely overwhelming.

She tore her eyes away from his peaceful face and closed the bathroom door behind her. Sitting on the toilet, she verified what she already knew to be true—she had not started her period. She surprised herself by how powerful that realization was when she thought she had already convinced herself of the fact. Sobs that she had no hope of repressing surged up from within her and she had to clamp both hands over her mouth to suppress the sound. Moving quickly, she stood up and turned on the shower, the resonance of the rushing water drowning out the muffled moans escaping her mouth. Stepping inside, she felt her muscles tense as the blasting heat of the water hit her, then slowly relax as the powerful streams of water went to work on her body.

She released her hands from her mouth, allowing it to hang open in the rushing onslaught of wetness, the water carrying the sounds of her sobbing away down the drain. Slowly, as a child retreating into its protective fetal position, she lowered herself to the floor of the tub, curling her legs into her chest. She wrapped her arms securely around the lower appendages, tucking her head into the tiny space created against her chest. The full force of the steaming water hit the left side of her body, the thunderous pounding driving away her agony with each wave.

Steam rose around her in a curtain, the water far too hot for her delicate skin. In her cocoon of despair, Liz was impervious to the scalding liquid, her skin absorbing the stinging burns as punishment for her stupidity. She curled up in the corner of the bathtub, her destructive actions unnoticed by anyone else in the apartment.

~~~~~

In the bedroom, Michael had risen from their bed as soon as he heard her close the bathroom door. Truthfully he had been awake for almost an hour already but had lain quietly by her side, just enjoying the feel of her body next to his. When she went into the bathroom, he got up and headed directly for the kitchen and the coffee maker, grinding beans and pouring water into the machine before he allowed his brain to even ponder the dilemma before him.

As he waited for the coffee to brew, he thought back to their 'talk' of a few days ago, remembering the promise she had made to him that everything would be better by Sunday, today. He wasn't foolish enough to believe that the things troubling her were as simple as an assignment deadline—the only problem was that he couldn't figure out why she would bother to lie to him about it. Or more accurately, he thought he had figured out the reason long ago but chosen not to face it.

As you're disappearing, I'm hearing
All I wanted you to say
I should focus more on the thought of
Letting you just slip away


He wasn't a fool. He knew exactly what was going on with her—she wanted out. Out of this relationship, out of New York, out of the life they had created together. Sure she said she didn't want to break up, but what did words mean anyway. Not much when you really thought about it. So she hadn't come right out and told him that it was over but he could see it in her eyes whenever he managed to sneak a glance at her. He could read it in her every gesture as she tensed when he passed her in the hallway, or climbed into bed beside her at night.

It was over. For all intents and purposes Liz Parker had broken up with him without ever uttering a word.

He couldn't quite believe it actually. Well, he hadn't been able to believe it at first, but as the days of isolation from her dragged on it became easier to see the truth of the situation. There was just one thing left to do now—let her go, even if she said that breaking up was not what she wanted. If she wouldn’t, or couldn't, do it, then he'd have to. Be a man, right? He had no idea how he was going to accomplish this—the single most difficult task he had ever faced. She was going to say it wasn't true, going to say that she still wanted to try, but he had to be strong. He wasn't good for her, he had never been good for her. They had fooled themselves into believing that what they had was right, but from the very beginning all it did was cause heartache and pain, both to their friends and themselves. Now they were settled into something slightly resembling a relationship, with all the outward appearances of a happy couple and all the hidden complexities that served to drive two people apart.

"Watcha doing?" Sam asked as she burst into the kitchen.

Michael jumped slightly at her interruption, recovering quickly to smile at her. "Just thinking."

She pulled a mug from the shelf and filled it with the freshly made coffee. Turning to stare at him she said slowly, "About Liz?"

He allowed himself an embarrassed smile but ignored the question, focusing intently on his own task of preparing a cup of the strong black liquid.

"You know, you should just talk to her," Sam offered.

"Tried that. Didn't work."

"Was that before or after you got drunk?" she threw back at him.

Michael snapped his head in her direction, the surprise on his face quickly replaced with a scowl as he realized Liz must have told her he was drinking.

"Chill," she replied, waving her hand absently. "You made enough noise to wake the dead stumbling in here, it doesn't take a genius."

The anger left his face but the scowl remained as he sipped his coffee silently, still unwilling to 'chat' about his relationship problems with Liz's closest friend.

"Something's obviously wrong, we noticed it too."

Michael saw that Sam had no intention of leaving him alone to work this out as she settled herself into a chair at the table.

"She says she's busy with school," he mumbled as a half-explanation for Liz's actions, wondering as he did why he was bothering to make up excuses for her behavior.

"Michael," the blonde girl said impatiently. "The three of us are taking the same courses. How much work have you seen me and Karen do?"

The blank look on his face signaled to her that he knew the answer and she cut in, "Exactly, none. We have had exactly zero tests, zero projects, and zero homework. Just readings so far that we both manage to get done in a couple of hours a day. Then there's Liz, all hunched over her laptop for hours. She might be fooling you, but I know she's not studying."

"Well if she's not…"

"Look," Sam started, before rising from her chair and walking into the living room. She returned a moment later to a confused look on Michael's face and handed him a notebook. "Read," she commanded.

Michael flipped open the front cover to see notes from what was obviously a psychology course. "This is just lecture notes."

"Yeah, and flip over a couple of pages. Look at her 'homework'."

Michael did as instructed, completely floored when he realized that at least five pages between the notes of each class were filled with doodles and random fragments of phrases. "This is Liz's?" he asked.

"That's what she's been writing every night, when she says she's studying. We finally looked last night because we knew she couldn't have that much work to do."

"Jesus," he whispered softly, continuing to turn the pages in her notebook, further horrified to see the ramblings continue at length. What was she up to? If it wasn't schoolwork that was keeping her so occupied then what?

But I get this strange feeling, you're not feeling
Everything you wanted to say
So it's just a little harder for me to play the part of
Watching you walk away


He closed the cover of the book in his hands and ran his fingers over the surface lightly. Whatever was bothering her it obviously had to be serious for her to concoct such an elaborate cover for her actions. Secretly he had assumed that she had already confided in Sam about whatever was troubling her, but now, knowing that she was most likely alone in her struggle, he suddenly had an irrational fear that she wasn't safe—like she could actually cause damage to herself if she let the distance between her and the people that cared for her increase further.

So before you disappear again
Just think of what you're feeling and don't go
There's more to what you're telling me
I'm not buying what you're selling me
Don't go


With a flare of determination, he laid down his coffee mug and gripped the notebook tighter in his hand. Pushing through the kitchen door he headed towards the bedroom with one thought on his mind, getting his girlfriend back.

He walked into the bedroom, at first not even noticing the sound of the shower running. He stopped just outside the bathroom door, not wanting to attack her with his accusations until she was finished, when he suddenly realized that he had heard the shower go on over 20 minutes ago.

"Liz?" he called softly, reaching out to try the doorknob. It was open, as per their agreement that it served neither of them to bother locking a door when they could both pop it open easily with a quick burst of their powers. He pushed it open fully, reeling back as the cloud of steam rushed towards him to escape its chamber.

"You okay?" he asked, panting as he tried to breathe in the oppressive heat of the small room. The shower curtain they had chosen was transparent, made the room look bigger, Liz had always said, but now when Michael looked at it he saw nothing but whiteness within the tub enclosure. A closer look revealed snaking rivulets of water piercing the steamy veil as water drops bounced off the plastic material and rushed downward towards the tub, revealing small slits where he could look inside. He saw that there was no one was standing in the shower, and reached out to push the curtain aside.

He jumped back slightly when he saw Liz's huddled form crouched in the corner of the porcelain basin, her body curled tightly around itself. He reached out to touch her head with a tentative hand, the stinging heat of the water causing him to retract his arm in pain. Angrily, he leaned in to slap the shower head away from its direct path to her body, sending a spray of scalding water cascading over the walls of the shower.

"What happened?" he asked, turning back to her. He reached his hand out to cup her face, tilting it up slowly to meet his eyes. The sight that befell him there was at once shocking and painful, the extent of the injury she had caused herself was evident in the comparison of opposing sides of her face—the right dripping wet but otherwise normal, the left swollen and blotchy, the burns caused by the scalding water immediately apparent. He stepped back from her, unsure if his movements were causing her pain when he noticed her right eye staring at him—staring but unseeing.

He stood up, reaching to turn the still running hot water off and replace it with jets of icy cold liquid. Turning back to her he saw that the entire left side of her body was a blistering red, his face wincing as he thought about the pain she must have been in. Hesitating before touching her again, he maneuvered his arms underneath her, lifting her body so that her right side leaned against him, her left exposed. He stepped into the tub, walking forward slowly until the streams of cold water ran over her tender skin. His own body shivered in the frigid water but he was too concerned with her well-being to notice his own quivering lips.

A faint moan started in her throat, turning into a series of whispered whimpers before he was satisfied that she was regaining consciousness. The thought of bringing her back into the world of pain she had caused herself was not something Michael relished, but he knew it was necessary for what he had to do next. He carried her into their bedroom, laying her on the bed gingerly before racing back into the washroom. He soaked two towels in the cold water before turning it off and carrying them back to her body. The water-soaked material was so cold to his touch yet as soon as he laid it on her restricted skin the heat radiated directly through the cloth, her body unable to cool itself fast enough. He walked around to the other side of the bed, maneuvering his own body until he lay next to hers, his face at eye level with her own.

"Liz," he whispered, pulling her uninjured right hand into his grasp. "Open your eyes, look at me."

The low murmurs in her throat grew into the shape of actual words as she stammered, "I… I have to… I want to tell you s-s-some-something."

"It's okay, just open your eyes," he pleaded with her. He knew that he could heal her if she would just look at him. Actually her body had to heal itself but she needed strength and that could only come from him at the moment. He knew that connecting with her right now brought its own consequences, namely the sharing of every intimate thought they held secret, but he had no choice, she was hurt and he'd risk her finding out that he had been planning to break up with her if it meant her getting better. "Liz, look at me please."

"No, I… I… I have to tell you. I… I th-think I'm…" her head tilted slightly as her eyes opened and she pulled her lips together to begin the final decisive word.

Her small motion gave him the chance he was waiting for and as soon as her eyes met his he was in, his skill at connecting with her perfected after months living with her so intimately. He felt himself being pulled into her, her essence wrapping around his stronger presence. The body's natural instinct is to fight to protect itself, and Liz's tangled violently with Michael's as it sought out the strength it needed to heal itself in him.

Only seconds later the exchange was over and he collapsed back on the bed, gasping for air as he struggled to appreciate the immense loss of energy that had just taken place. His brain furiously processed the new fragments of information it had gained from her and as the realization of what she had kept from him settled over his body, he turned his head to meet her penetrating gaze.

"It's true," she said simply.

"Why didn't you…?" he asked pathetically, his face betraying the broken spirit of one who had been lied to for so long.

"I was trying to tell you, honest," she explained, her voice quivering as her body refused to suppress the powerful emotions running through it any longer. "You don't have to worry about me Michael. I know what you want to do."

"What?" he gasped, before remembering that she had read his thoughts too. "No, that was just because…"

"Save it," she snapped, her body shivering uncontrollably as she rolled over, the damp towels falling off to leave her wet body exposed.

Don't you understand that I'm stranded
In a feeling I can't shake
Don't you realize that I'm frightened
Of all the things you're gonna take


"I thought you were finished," he snapped back at her, sitting up on the bed to peer over her shoulder. The muscles in his jaw pulsed as he fought to keep his surging emotions in check. "I thought you were through with us, that you were just throwing it away, and I was trying to give you a way out." He did a poor job of hiding his anger, and found himself panting beside her, cursing silently that he had raised his voice after the experience he had just watched her go through.

"I never asked you to give me a way out," she stammered, curling her cold body around itself.

"But that's what you wanted," he continued, with every word his brain screaming at him to shut his mouth, to just swallow the words that could very likely ruin the best thing he had ever known. His tone was quiet as he pulled the blankets up to cover her body, leaning over to add, "You're the one that put the distance between us Liz. Not me."

"What was I supposed to do?" she begged, tears streaming down her cheeks even as she reached out to clasp the hand he rested on his shoulder. "I didn't know for sure, I didn't want you to freak out."

And now you seem so distant, so much more resistant
To ever let the feeling show
So it's hard for me to face it, even less replace it
Everything you're letting go


At that, he whirled his body away from her, bounding off the side of the bed to stride around the room. He reached her side and knelt on the floor beside her, staring into her eyes. His voice was soft as he asked her painfully, "So you what? Tried to push me away?"

"I didn't want to, it just… it just seemed easier than telling you. I thought you'd be mad." Her eyes were filled with a mixture of tears and shame but she met his gaze evenly, forcing herself to accept the repercussions of her actions. She stared into his eyes, searching for the hurt and anger she knew had to be there. What she actually saw surprised her, even if only for a moment, as she realized that the swirling brown pools were overflowing only with love for her, his adoration present even now in the midst of his heartache.

So before you disappear again
Just think of what you're feeling and don't go
There's more to what you're telling me
I'm not buying what you're selling me
Don't go


"Liz," he whispered, biting his lips as he fought the tears that threatened to fall from his own eyes. "I would give my life for yours, know that. I could never be mad."

"Really?" she gasped.

He lost his fight with the powerful emotions washing over him and as she watched his face crumble she knew she had her answer.

"Baby," she whispered, leaning in to caress his cheek.

"No," he responded, holding her off to push the blankets back from her body. He leaned down to plant a delicate kiss on her exposed stomach. "Baby," he whispered.
posted on 6-Jan-2003 10:42:40 AM
I know I left you waiting too long but I'm back!!! I'm still stuck on where to take it next, but at least it's an update, right? Hope you like!

S.


Part 5

Michael sat in a chair staring at Liz's sleeping form. She was exhausted from her earlier ordeal, naturally, and he was glad to see her resting. His own body begged for the sweet release of sleep, drained to near empty from donating all of its energy towards healing her, but his brain wouldn't permit the desired luxury. He didn't have time to sleep, he had to think—think about the news Liz had shared with him, think about the consequences of such a revelation.

She had long ago concluded that she was pregnant, even without concrete proof, but for him, the situation was slightly different. He knew with absolute certainty that Liz was carrying his child, and the thought petrified him.

He looked up as she stirred on the bed, and watched as she blinked her eyes open.

"Hey you," she mumbled sleepily, the memory of an hour ago not yet surfacing in her mind.

"Hey," he replied, masking the worry on his face with a small smile as he rose and moved to sit beside her on the bed. He watched as her face lit up with a smile that almost immediately began to fade again.

"We're pregnant?" she asked timidly, still fighting the memories flooding her brain.

"Yeah."

"We might not be," she added quickly, sending him a questioning look as she tried to read his expressionless face.

"We are," he said assuredly.

"But you don't know that. I might… we can't know for sure."

His heart pained to watch her grasp at anything she could reach, struggling to find a reason to explain away the truth she had been so sure of only an hour ago. He saw the very moment when she realized how he could be so confident in his statement and watched as her expression turned to one of belief.

"You saw?" she whispered softly.

He nodded silently.

"You saw our baby?" she continued, tears forming in her eyes.

"Well, her essence, but yeah," he said smiling.

"Her?" Liz asked, her voice cracking as she asked.

"Oh, no babe," he quickly interjected. "I couldn't tell, not really, I just feel it somehow. Like it should be a girl."

"But you don't know for sure?"

"No. Why?"

"Because I'm having a boy," she said firmly.

"Oh are you now?" Michael asked, unable to stop the smile that spread across his face as he watched her eyes dance.

"Yep," she replied smugly.

"And just how can you be so sure?"

"Michael, little girls dream about three things – who they'll marry, what their wedding will be like, and what their kid's names are going to be. I've known since I was 10 that Charles Jeffrey Parker would be my first son.

Michael stared at her, fighting to maintain the interested smile on his face as his emotions surged and he had to repress the urge not to turn away from her in disgust. She knew what "her" son's name would be – Parker. Not Guerin, Parker. Liz had just made it painfully obvious how she felt about having a child with him, like it didn't matter at all that he had chosen to spend his life with her, he was just a convenient sperm repository she could withdraw from at any time.

He stood up from his place on the bed, covering the anguish in his voice with teasing as he mumbled, "Well call him whatever you like because we're having a girl. Now get a shower and we'll go out to eat," he continued, reaching to grab clean clothes from his closet.

"Fine but he's a boy," she called, hurrying into the bathroom before she heard his muffled response through the T-shirt halfway across his face.

"Girl!"

Once she closed the door, Michael dropped the shirt onto his body and lowered his chin to his chest. Even more than the name of her dreamt of child, he realized the significance of her other dreams – who she'd marry, what kind of wedding she'd have. If she was truly in love with him now wouldn't those dreams have some further details? Wouldn't the mystery man she was supposed to marry have a face? His face?

He wasn't ready to ask Liz to marry him, not at 19, not when he couldn't provide for her, for a family. He sighed heavily as he sat down on their bed, the separation existing between them even stronger now that he knew her secret. Marriage or not, whether she wanted his face on her dream husband or not, he did have to provide for her—for her and their child. Michael Guerin was about to become a father, with a woman who probably wasn't satisfied to share her life with him. He sighed as his thoughts settled heavily on his mind; his biggest goal today had been seeing how many bags of Ruffles he could inhale while watching the hockey game—not planning the rest of his life before breakfast.

Michael rubbed his hand roughly across his face and stood up, the truth of the matter was that he didn't want this baby, not now, not yet. There was so much he wanted to give her, including children, but none of it was supposed to happen while he was a lowly guard at MetaChem. He had dreams, aspirations, plans of waiting until she finished school and then enrolling somewhere himself; building a solid foundation that they could base a life on. Not this, not a baby now, not Liz dropping out of school while he took a second job to support them.

He heard the shower shut off and knew that she would be out in a minute. She had seemed so happy when she told him, like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders and she was glad to be sharing this experience with him. He couldn't tell her how he really felt, wouldn't crush her dreams of a picturesque family, no matter how ill the thought of accepting so much responsibility made him.

Quickly he ran his hands through his hair, styling it, and pulled on his faded jeans. Pushing his wallet securely into his back pocket, he masked his fears with a plastic smile and turned to face her once again.

~~~~~

In the bathroom, Liz had collapsed to the floor as soon as the door was closed behind her. She had convinced herself that she was pregnant days ago but just now Michael had confirmed it and that knowledge was choking. She wasn't ready to have a baby, not at 19. She had a specified path set out before her and having a baby did not fit into her 5-year plan. Finishing school, getting a job, and marrying Michael were the major milestones, even if he didn't know about them yet, and she had been sure that everything would work out that way… until now. No part of her was prepared to welcome a child into this world, even if he was created from their love.

She had pushed herself away from the wall and stepped into the shower, unsuccessfully trying to block the memory of her earlier cleansing attempt from her mind. Every fiber in her being begged to return to the safe fetal position, to fold her body in upon itself in a protective cocoon, but she resisted. She couldn't give in to her weakness. She was having this baby whether she wanted to or not—it was inevitable.

Shutting off the water, she climbed out of the shower and stood in front of the vanity. Slowly she reached her hand out to cut a slice in the blanket of steam coating it. The vaporized water droplets condensed beneath her fingers, revealing a streak of glass in which she could see herself clearly. She looked beautiful, healthy, vibrant—her skin practically glowing with Michael's energy coursing through her veins. The picture should have been perfect, would have been if it wasn't for the eyes. The eyes betrayed the true emotion running through the tiny girl—fear. Absolute, complete, all-encompassing fear gripped her heart tightly and rippled within her gaze, telling the world that she had a secret; a dark, shameful secret that she couldn't reveal at any cost.

She was pregnant, blessed with a life growing inside her, and the one thought pulsing in her mind was how she was going to make it go away.
posted on 8-Jan-2003 1:39:14 PM
Hey Anya,

Glad to see you came back to read this!!!

Thanks,
Sherry

Part 6

Michael's resolve broke as he waited for Liz to exit the washroom, and he turned to escape the painful reminders the bedroom brought. Walking into the living room, he looked up to see Sam's expectant face staring at him… from between her legs. She was curled into one of the more painful yoga positions that Michael could imagine but stared at him cheerily as she posed.

"I take it that went well?" she asked simply.

He shook his head, smirking at one of her weirder habits as he picked up his keys from the kitchen pass through, turning to lean against it as he watched her shift position.

"Yeah," he mumbled gruffly.

Breathing out forcefully, the blonde girl reached for a bottle of water, taking a small sip before twisting her body in a mirror image of the previous movement. "You guys okay?"

"We're good," came the muffled reply.

"Good," she said from beneath her armpit. "I don't believe you, but good."

Michael cursed to himself at Sam's obvious insight into his relationship troubles. Of course they weren't good, he knew he had to talk to Liz about this further, but to have the truth displayed in front of him so simply… not something he was comfortable with.

He coughed quickly to signal the end of his contribution to the conversation when he heard the bedroom door opening. Liz emerged, her pale features only accentuated by the black T-shirt she wore. Her hair was lying flat against her head, and threatened to curtain off her face completely if she let it fall any further in front of her eyes.

The immediate tension wafting between them was shattered when Sam burst out laughing, her voice coming from somewhere between her knees this time. "You two look like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee!"

Michael snapped his head in her direction. What was her problem? Couldn't she see that this was serious, not a time to be making jokes about…

He looked back at Liz, matching the small smile breaking the serious mask on her face as she looked down at the clothes she was wearing. The black T-shirt and faded blue jeans matched his choices for the day identically and she shook her head, shrugging as she turned back to the bedroom.

"I got it," she called lightly, the tone of her voice sending his heart soaring as he heard a faint reminder of the girl he'd known only a few short weeks ago.

It was inspiring, knowing that they could still have what they'd each grown to depend on, they just had to figure out a way to merge this new information with it. Michael actually allowed himself a smile as the thought settled in his brain, one that lasted exactly 20 seconds until she exited the room again, the white top paling her face even further, all signs of humor extinguished from her gaze.

He busied himself with gathering his jacket and shoes, watching her do the same before holding the door open for her. They walked in silence down the stairs from their apartment, turning in memorized steps to head towards their favorite restaurant, Oscar's. It was just a little diner three blocks from their apartment, but whenever the suggestion of eating out was made, they knew immediately where the other one intended.

Liz listened to the silence surrounding them as they traced the familiar path. She knew she couldn't last through the day, let alone the next nine months, without telling Michael how she really felt about this baby, but what did she say? What words were there to possibly use to explain to someone that you didn't want the part of them that was growing inside of you? That you were refusing to accept their precious gift just because it wasn't convenient?

She choked back the sob rising in her throat, masking it with a cough as terror rippled through her body. What would his reaction be when… if she told him? He wouldn't want to stay, how could he? Her eyes fluttered furiously as she blinked back tears, looking up in relief to see that they had arrived at the door to the diner, the walk down the last two blocks not even registering in her mind.

Michael reached for the door, pulling it open to allow her to pass. Out of pure habit, he placed his hand on the small of her back as she moved by him, the feeling of touching her at once bringing him delight and torture. He didn't deserve to even be in her presence while he entertained the evil thoughts dancing through his mind. The thought that he could wish her not to hold such a delicate treasure inside of her, not to bare it… for him… it made his stomach reel with the violent urge to empty his body of the viciousness.

Following her inside, head lowered, he took a seat across from her in a booth, mumbling, "Coffee," to the waiting waitress. It was poured immediately and he grasped onto the cup like a lifeline, wrapping his hands around it tightly to keep them from fidgeting before her eyes.

"So," he managed to mumbled, the silence shattering like smashed crystal at his word.

She jerked her eyes up towards him, the tears she fought to hide still welling there, revealing the truth that she was far more emotional about the situation than she let on.

"So this is… this is going to be… different, hey?" he managed.

"Different?" she whispered, her eyes falling back to the cup she mimicked his actions with, occupying her jittery hands by jamming her fingers into the tiny handle space tightly.

"Well, like, good different, I mean."

"Yeah," she echoed. "Good different."

"Do you… do you want to call home? Tell…"

"No!" she snapped, her eyes flying up to blaze towards his face.

"O… okay," he stammered, leaning back just a little as he examined the emotions raging on her features. "I just thought… your parents…"

"No," she repeated, this time her voice barely audible. 'I don't want to… not yet."

"That's fine," he mumbled, relieved that he didn't have to break the news to Isabel and Max—she'd freak and he'd… well he'd freak even more.

The waitress returned to their table, glancing down at the menus neither of them had recognized yet. Michael flipped his open quickly, muttering, "I'll have the special, over easy, with bacon."

Liz stared at the coffee mug in her hands, shaking her head as she waved off the food request silently.

"You should eat something," he suggested softly when the woman left, detaching one hand from his coffee mug bravely to reach across the table towards her.

"I will," she mumbled, flinching at the sudden contact of skin against skin. "I, uh… I've got a headache," she said quickly, glancing up at him before looking down to slide out of the booth, her arm retracting from the suggestive hold he placed on it. "I'll just… there's a drugstore…"

"Don’t," he whispered furtively. "I'll fix it, we can leave, don't… you shouldn't take anything." Michael knew nothing about a pregnant woman not taking over the counter medication, but instead feared for the unknown reaction that would happened when Tylenol® met her newly alien body.

Liz also knew why he was making his suggestion and paused to look back at him as she stood from the bench. "This is just a human sort of headache, okay?"

The rebuke wasn't meant to scald him but he leaned back in his seat, watching her walk out the doors of the diner, her answer burning the resolve to play nice within his mind. He decided right then and there to tell her, tell her that he'd support her no matter what she wanted to do, but that he didn't think it was such a great idea to have a baby. He knew it would probably break her but with comments like those, she deserved whatever words he felt like throwing at her.

Even as he sat back to sip on his coffee again, regret for actions he had only considered washed over him and he knew that he would never confront her with his true feelings. If he felt like his world was changing forever, then she had to feel like hers was ending. He had no idea how to convince her that he would be supportive when he felt like anything but, but he knew that he would try… just as soon as he ate his eggs. Oscar's eggs weren't something a hungry boy passed up, not even with good reason.

~~~~~

Liz tossed the tiny bag on their bed forcefully, sitting down to stare at its vile contents. She had escaped the diner easily enough, slipping in and out of the drugstore across the street before Michael finished his breakfast. She reached for the bag now, opening it to remove the tiny package. She didn’t have to hurry, she knew that she probably couldn't expect Michael home for hours, both of them needing alone time whenever an issue rose between them, but she wanted to have the deed completed long before he returned, all evidence destroyed.

Carrying the box into the bathroom, she closed the door behind her and locked it, hoping that if he did return early, it would signal that she didn't want him to use his superb break and enter skills on the door. She read the instructions on the outer package, breaking the seal to slip the slender stick out of its casing.

+ she was, – she wasn't… simple.

Her hands shook as she placed the pregnancy test back on the counter and flipped her thumb against the button of her jeans. She had worked herself into a craze all last week, sure that she was pregnant no matter what lack of symptoms she exhibited. Today, when she hadn't started her period, she had been sure that it was enough proof for her, topping it with Michael's declaration of what he'd seen when they connected… well she really shouldn't need more proof.

Who was she kidding? She was Elizabeth Parker, scientist-in-the-making, she needed something solid before she could quell the doubts raging in her mind, eradicate the lingering hope that she wasn't pregnant at all.

Hope. She may have been a terrible person for it, but yes… she still hoped that she wasn't with child. She thought that hearing that she was barren at this point would have been celebrated with cheering.

Closing her eyes to steel herself to the task before her, Liz lowered herself onto the toilet seat and reached for the white stick. A few moments later, she reached over the turn on the sink faucet, her bladder choosing this moment to be shy when all she needed was the smallest sample.

Finally, she completed the test, placing it on the counter to wash her hands vigorously. The second hand on her watch read 15 seconds and she kept one eye trained on it as it completed one more cycle in its never ending circle. She took a seat on the now closed toilet seat, lowering her head to her hands as she mentally counted the remaining seconds until the test was ready.

59… 58… 57…

Why had she ever agreed that Michael didn't have to wear condoms?

46… 45… 44…

What had ever possessed her to shed virginity anyway?

33… 32… 31…

What was she going to tell everyone?

19… 18… 17…

How was she ever going to finish her degree with a baby?

11… 10… 9…

What if she really was?

3… 2… 1…

What if she wasn't?

The last thought rang through her brain like a bullet from a gun speeding perilously towards its victim. What if she wasn't? She didn't have any fear that she wasn't? If she wasn't… well, if she wasn't then that would be the solution to all of her problems, right? If she wasn't, then she didn't have to drop out of school, she didn't have to worry about money, she didn't have to tell anyone… except Michael.

Suddenly tears that she had been repressing since that morning sprung to the forefront and she clasped her hand to her mouth in a pathetic attempt to damn them. Looking out from behind two waterfalls, the shaking girl reached a hand out towards the enemy resting innocently on the countertop. Grasping the stick in her hands, she raised it towards her face, her eyes blinking furiously as she struggled to focus her vision.



It said –

That meant… Liz dropped the stick to the floor, her upper body no longer holding the strength to support herself as she collapsed onto her knees. Great sobs wracked her body as she cried over the result written on the tiny white object.

Negative. It was negative. She wasn't pregnant.

She felt like her world had just ended.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 8-Jan-2003 1:40:01 PM ]
posted on 9-Jan-2003 11:52:11 AM
Hey there,

Thanks for the comments! I think your questions will be answered here - I hope!

Sherry


Part 7

Michael walked into the quiet house about 20 minutes later. He had debated abandoning the necessity to talk to Liz in favor of a day completely to himself. He knew she needed time to process this, something he was in dire need of himself, but instinct told him that she also needed him right now, more than she needed to be alone, even if she wouldn't admit it.

He paced down the silent hallway stealthily. There were faint sounds coming from somewhere ahead of him, almost as if someone were wailing, but he passed it off as Sam playing some of that voodoo music from Africa she adored so much. Pushing their bedroom door open, he pulled off his T-shirt as he entered. He had yet to find Liz, but right now he could think of nothing better than standing beneath a pulsing shower head, letting the pounding forces wash his tormented thoughts down the drain.

Striding across the carpeted floor, he fumbled with one hand on his buttoned jeans as he reached for the doorknob with the other. His complete lack of preparedness for it being locked sent him crashing into the door at full force, his shoulder splintering the cheap plywood slightly. He stepped back, flattening his hand against the lock instinctively as he concentrated on opening it. It clicked and the door started to swing open naturally, just before being slammed back against its hinges.

"What the…" he muttered.

"Wait!" Liz yelped from inside the tiny room, unaware that he had returned home until his loud collision with the door had jerked her out of her daze. She had leapt from the toilet seat where she was still huddled, pushing her own body against the door forcibly to keep it shut.

"Liz?" he asked from the other side.

"I… I'm not decent," she called, cringing as she heard her own weak excuse.

"Since when did that matter?" he called back.

His voice held a light teasing to it and she winced as she heard the familiar innocence displayed there. She fumbled with the cardboard box on the counter, pushing the detailed instructions back inside as she glanced around for the test itself. She heard him turning the knob again as she dropped to her knees, searching for the white stick that would betray her new, much darker secret.

"What are you doing?" he asked, pushing open the door as he leaned inside to stare down at her.

Her eyes fell on the test hidden behind the toilet, kicked there in her flurry to prevent him from entering. She stretched out to grab it, shoving it into the box with the other paraphernalia as he crouched down beside her.

"You look pretty decent to me," he commented.

"I just… I wasn't…" she stammered, keeping her face hidden behind her hair as she moved the box to her side to conceal it.

"What's wrong?" he asked suddenly, his voice dropping as he observed her actions, fear gripping his heart as he watched her obvious attempt to avoid his gaze.

"N… nothing," she murmured, her head hanging in defeat as she slowly realized that she had no escape from the room without either showing him her tear-streaked face or letting him watch as she removed the effects.

"Liz…" he prompted quietly, reaching to grasp her chin in his hand, turning her face towards his. "What…" Seeing the tear tracks carved in her cheeks, his breath caught sharply in his throat as a fear he didn't know he had flooded his body. "Is it… did something happen to…"

The baby. He wanted to know if something had happened to the baby, she thought. What baby?

Against her strongest urge, laughter built in her chest, rising up through her throat to vibrate against her lips. She pressed them together tightly, clamping her hand across her mouth in a desperate attempt to suppress the sound, hide the true emotion she felt at that moment from his panic-stricken gaze. The maniacal sound pushing its way upwards would not be stopped, careening through her body to explode into the heavy silence sitting between them.

"Ha, ha, ha," she giggled. "B… ba… babe… baby?" she stammered. Her earlier tears still fell steadily across her cheeks, in stark contrast to the volume emanating from her mouth. She pulled her right hand, still clutching the evidence tightly in its grip, across her stomach. "Wha…" she gasped, bending over as her quivering muscles clenched tightly from the emotional exertion. "Wha… what baby?"

Michael's face twisted into confusion before heading on towards rage as he watched her create humor in a situation where there was call for none. "Your baby?" he snapped angrily, gripping her chin again tightly as he twisted her head towards him. "Our baby."

In his grasp, the smile fell from her face, laughter still resonating in her chest though no longer reaching the surface. She stared at the fire crackling in his eyes and cursed him for wanting this baby. He wasn't supposed to want it, if she didn't want it then he wasn't allowed to either. It wasn't fair!

"Don't you get it?" she whispered. "There is no baby Michael. There never was a baby."

His mouth hung open in an unspoken question as he wrestled with the words she spoke. No baby? Never?

"I don't… I don't understand," he mumbled.

"Here," she snapped, thrusting the tattered box into his chest.

He fumbled with it, dropping it to the floor between them before he realized what it was. The slender white stick with its blaring "–" symbol fell out, twirling on the icy ceramic teasingly.

A spinning object creates a magnificent illusion as it turns, a circular outline appearing from a simple straight line. Michael stared down at the white orb pulsating on the floor between them, watching as the circumference came further into focus before shattering abruptly, leaving just the simple rectangular stick in its place. Cautiously, he reached down to grasp it, his large hand dwarfing the minute object in his clutches. Bringing it to his gaze, he broke free of the trance it held over him to glance up at Liz.

She stared back at him ashamedly, unwilling to meet his gaze yet unable to look away.

"What is it?" he asked stupidly.

"A test," she murmured, unable to add the key word 'pregnancy' in there.

"What does it say?"

"Read it," she replied simply.

He looked down at the thin stick, the "–" symbol glaring up at him forebodingly. "Minus?"

"As in negative," she prompted. When it became obvious that he still didn't know what that meant, she sighed, adding, "As in not. I'm not pregnant. I never was."

Her words washed over him, the repulsion he felt at their sound shocking him. Her news was unexpected, yet only an hour ago he had been wishing he had never found out she was, now that she wasn't… shouldn't elation be the prevalent feeling?

"This doesn't mean anything," he mumbled.

"It's proof Michael. Scientific proof."

"It's human proof," he growled, flinging the stick towards the wall forcefully. It snapped on contact, splitting into two pieces, the evidence seemingly destroyed.

Liz fought to restrain her surging anger as she reminded him gently, "I'm human."

He turned his gaze back to her, the anger fading from his features as shame over his words took its place. "I'm sorry, I just…" He looked at her pleadingly, "Let me look again, please. Liz, I know what I saw, there was… you were… I know it."

"Michael…"

"God damn it!" he snapped. Turmoil raging in his eyes once more as he stared at her determinedly. "You believe in scientific proof? Well I believe in my proof, what I know, what I am, and I can't… I can't just ignore what I saw, what I felt. It was too… it was real…"

"Okay, okay," she murmured softly, pushing back sobs that welled up in response to his words. He was struggling with this, she had to give him what he needed, the kind of proof he couldn't deny. "We'll check, okay?"

"Thank you," he whispered softly, staring at her for a moment before moving to his feet. He helped her up from her place on the floor, leading her to their bed in the next room. Never taking his hand from her arm, he watched her lay down on the blankets, crawling up beside her.

Lifting her shirt, Michael stared at the spot on her stomach where their baby should be growing. He placed his hand against her skin, lifting his head to seek out her eyes. He wrestled with emotions he knew he should reveal yet had no power to do so. Pushing them down, he concentrated on connecting with her, peeking inside her being for the presence of another.

He was in instantaneously. Images assaulted his brain as he searched around frantically for essential information. Swirls of biology reports and class schedules flickered in front of his face and he turned away from them, not concerned with the clutter of information concealing the truth he desired. He found a thread of anguish woven through her essence and grasped onto it tightly. He followed it, searching anxiously for the smallest suggestion of new life within her. He found only sadness, expansive, reaching sadness that encompassed her body, every fiber crying for the child that had never existed. Finally, he reached the end of the thread and found himself swallowed in stabbing shards of pain. Her body was preparing to expel itself of the components necessary to sustain a life. Liz wasn't pregnant, she was just off schedule, something he found devastating and ironic at the same time.

Gasping as he resurfaced, Michael collapsed onto the bed beside her, his hand still kneading the tender flesh of her abdomen. "I don't… I don't understand," he mumbled.

"I do," she responded softly.

He looked up at her, seeing in her eyes that she had felt every emotion that he had, seen the truth of the situation deep inside her body, and knew it to be true.

"When we connected, before," she explained. "I saw you breaking up with me. It's how I knew." She shuddered as the memory of the nonexistent event played through her mind once more. Seeing the objection rising on his face, she stopped him, "I know all the reasons. I know you were only trying to give me what I wanted. It wasn't anywhere near what I wanted," she added grimly. "But still…"

Michael bowed his head away from her penetrating gaze, unable to admit that it was only that morning that he had thought she wanted him to end everything.

"Look at me," she prompted softly, turning his head with a gentle nudge of her hand. "My point is that I saw it. I didn't just know it, I saw it happen. You had this nervous smirk on your face like you were about to throw up," she recalled, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "I wanted to kiss you and kill you all at the same time."

"I never meant…"

"I know, I know the why, but think about the how… how I knew. If I could see your thoughts played out for real, then you could see my…"

"No," he interrupted quickly. "It was more than thoughts Liz. I saw her, I mean I felt her, right there."

"No you didn't," she mumbled, her voice cracking as she convinced him of a truth both of them already knew. "There never was a baby. You know it as well as I do. We just… we just have to accept…"

Her voice trailed off as silent sobs shook her body and Michael shifted to pull her into his arms. He knew she was right, he had his own evidence now to prove it, he just wasn't sure he was ready to accept it yet.

Silence settled over the pair as the reality that their lives hadn't changed sunk in. Neither of them had readily accepted the idea of having a child, each tortured by their own fears of bringing something so precious into the world before they were ready. Both of them would have sworn only an hour ago that news like this was welcome. Instead, they were each equally wracked with an emotion they never would have expected—guilt.

They hadn't wanted a child, right up until the moment they didn't have one, then they each realized in a thunderous revelation how powerful losing something you didn't even know you loved could be.

Their lives really had changed after all—irreversibly, forever.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 9-Jan-2003 1:37:52 PM ]
posted on 16-Jan-2003 9:31:57 AM
Anya - I would NEVER try to hurt you!!! Well... .maybe just a little... *happy*

This is the last part of this story - I know, it's sad, but I really need to put the characters to rest for a little while until I can figure out what to do with them next. There's always another sequel, right? I think I'll wait until Kasey Chambers releases another soulful ballad to get inspired!

I hope you are happy with the end *happy* I wasn't sure it was the end until I wrote the last line and smiled - then I just knew.

Enjoy!
Sherry


Part 8

Liz knew she had to tell him, tell Michael that it was her fault there was no baby. She had prayed so hard for it not to be real, now she was convinced that it was her prayers that had made the child disappear, not its non-existence in the first place.

"I've got to… I've got to tell you something," she mumbled from her place buried against his chest.

Michael had thought she was asleep, her body ceasing its shaking a short time ago to breathe evenly. Now he shifted his weight to seek out her face, frowning when she kept it hidden. She remained in position, staring down at his legs, choosing to face the expansive spread of his bare chest rather than turn towards his eyes.

"Okay," he said quietly, his brow furrowing as he worried what the effects of not having a baby she seemed so happy about would be.

"This morning," she started slowly, swallowing heavily as she fought to wash away the Sahara sand that suddenly shrouded her throat. "This morning, yesterday, last week—ever since I thought I was… thought it was real, I've been praying for only one thing." She stopped, the tremors returning to her body as she admitted her greatest sin to him.

"That it wasn't…" Her voice broke as another cloud of sand swept into her mouth. Sobs shook her small frame, tears providing much needed moisture to her desiccated body. "I prayed for it Michael," she gasped, gripping his waist tightly in her quivering hand as she struggled to hold onto the one pillar she still felt, his strength. "We had this beautiful gift and all I could think of was how I was going to make it go away."

Her final words were swallowed in anguish, inaudible to the boy lying still on the bed, listening intently to her. Michael stared down at the expanse of brown hair fanning across his stomach, the shaking body behind it terrified of what his reaction was going to be. Tenderly, he reached down to force her towards his face, tugging gently when she resisted the movement. He frowned when she moved reluctantly, wishing to see her eyes while she offered him shuttered lids.

"Baby," he whispered, his finger tracing the path of tears moistening her cheek.

Her eyes fluttered open at the sound of his voice, the undertones of love and acceptance glaringly obvious through the layer of tears coating his own throat. "You aren't… you don't…" she stumbled, unable to believe that he didn't think her a savage for wishing such devastation upon their lives.

"I could kill myself for it…" he began softly, unsure if he could give actual voice to the words that matched her own. "…but I thought it too."

"No," she moaned, lowering her face to his body as she felt the tremors begin in his chest, the eruption of sobs inevitable. "We both?" she questioned pathetically.

"Come here, come here," he prodded her quickly, forcing her face to his again. "It's not bad, really." He didn't believe his words any more than she did and the truth of his conviction was evident on his face.

"I just… I just wasn't ready, you know?" she gasped.

"I know, of course you weren't. How could we ever do this?" he confirmed.

Their eyes locked onto each other's for an endless moment before Liz finally managed, "But we could have tried, right?"

Michael's eyes closed as he listened to her words, unbelieving that she voiced the exact thoughts coursing through his veins. They could have tried, they could have done it; together they had a surplus of love to give a child, he just wasn't ready for one. He shouldn't be faulted for that, right?

He shouldn't have been, and wouldn't, if it wasn't for the true feelings running through his mind. He'd never known it until the reality of parenthood had been thrown in his face, but he did want a child, he wanted a child with Liz, a family. A little indecision didn't diminish the desire to create life, did it?

"No, it doesn't," she whispered softly.

His eyes flew open, staring at her in shock as she answered his unspoken question. A small smile played at the corner of her lips and for a spilt second the confusion in his mind was replaced with one thought—she was beautiful even when she cried.

The need to know how she had heard his thoughts swarmed back to the forefront of his brain immediately and the questioning look in his eyes asked her everything he wanted to know.

"I think… I think it's new," she said softly, tilting her head to the side as she concentrated on an unseen object.

'I want to have a baby with you too Michael.'

He gasped as her words rang through his brain as clearly as if they had fallen from her lips. "You… I can hear you…" he mumbled.

"I know," she said smiling.

"But… how?"

Liz shrugged. "The connection?"

Michael let his head fall back against the pillows, the turmoil resulting from their recent confessions replaced for a moment by utter bewilderment.

Liz bit her lip gently as she watched him, a nasty habit she had picked up from him that brought a favored image of him performing the same action to her mind with every nibble; the one reason she had no desire to break the impulse.

"Maybe this is just a gift, you know?" she said quietly.

He tipped his head back down to face her, tears he had wrestled to suppress flooding his eyes. "And it's a nice gift, but is it enough? For right now?"

"Think about it," she said, the serious side of Elizabeth Parker emerging in every respect. "You know I always dreamed about having kids, this…"

"No I didn't," he interrupted quickly.

"What?" she asked, squinting her eyes at him. Surely he did, she had to have told him, she must have.

"I didn't know you wanted kids. Not until this morning, not until you said his name… Parker."

The obvious hurt on Michael's face did not go unnoticed by his girlfriend. She shifted her weight from where she lay on her stomach next to him, propping herself up on her elbows to stare at him. "Michael," she said softly. "I want my son's name to be Parker, I want him to have my maiden name."

She fell back into chewing her lip again as she waited for his response. Seeing confusion reign across his features, she added softly, "And I want his last name to be my married name… yours."

"You… you want…"

"Of course I do," she said, a toothy grin breaking across her face.

"You said you dreamed about what he looked like…"

"Michael," she said, lowering her eyes as she shook her head slightly. His frustration at not understanding what he thought were pretty clear dreams just this morning was obvious and she hurried to soothe his wounded ego. "Michael, I couldn't tell you that I see your face standing across from me at the altar, I thought you'd freak… like you're doing." She finished with a smile, full of anticipation as she waited for him to signal his understanding.

He stared at her for a moment, sending her world into a spiraling tailspin as he prolonged her wait for an answer of understanding. "You see me?" he finally whispered beneath his breath.

Liz pulled herself invitingly along his body, snaking up his side to wriggle towards his face. "I always have," she said huskily.

"Well not when…"

"Not when I was with Max?" she interpreted correctly, any anger she felt at him throwing that name into the conversation replaced by love as she recognized the scared little boy who had never known love reaching out to tentatively accept the open arms she offered him now. "I've been waiting for you my entire life Michael Guerin. Even when I was with… him… I knew it wasn't forever, that there was someone else out there for me. I just had to go and find you."

"And was that hard?" he asked, a smile teasing his face as he disbelievingly took in the words she offered him as truth.

"Torture!" she sighed.

Liz squealed as Michael flipped her quickly over on the bed, rolling his larger body on top to pin her down. "Do you have any idea how much I love you?" he asked quietly, leaning in to meet her waiting lips for a long kiss.

"Mmm," she murmured against them. "Why don't you show me?"

He pulled back hesitantly, asking, "So soon?"

She squirmed beneath him, shifting her eyes to his chest as she faced the implied question hidden behind his words. "I think… I think we should be careful… until we decide."

"I agree," he replied, smiling at her obvious nervousness. "No babies, not yet anyway."

"Not yet," she confirmed, reaching up to grab him into an embrace. "But someday, right?"

"Someday," he said smiling, content for right now to just lose himself in her, the woman who had made him the man of her dreams.

The End