Hiding Beneath (AU,M/L,ADULT) [WIP]

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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 40, 8th December 09

Postby Rowedog » Wed Jan 06, 2010 1:14 am

Favourite Lead Portrayal of Max Evans ~ Hiding Beneath
Favourite Lead Portrayal of Liz Parker ~ Hiding Beneath
Favourite Supporting Portrayal of Michael Guerin ~ Hiding Beneath
Favourite Supporting Portrayal of Maria DeLuca ~ Hiding Beneath
Favourite Supporting Portrayal of Alex Whitman ~ Hiding Beneath
Favourite Portrayal of a Child ~ Tia in Hiding Beneath
Best Original Character ~ Tia in Hiding Beneath

Wow. And that's just for this fic. You guys are insane and I love you for it. I don't really think I'll win any, but it's wonderful to be nominated.

You know, it’s funny, I actually really enjoyed the M/M break up. I really liked writing it and I love where that particular couple are headed. Whereas you guys... didn’t enjoy it so much and some of your fb made me feel a little evil because I liked it so much.

Sorry this took so long to get to you. I suck a little bit. Oh and the song? Totally sad. The lyrics are a little odd, but I think it really fits the mood.

Ashley
Somewhere87
Ellie
Leila
Novy
Ginger-
Removing Michael from the situation, do you really think it would have been better for Tia to be removed from her loving home just because Michael couldn’t make a payment on time? The situation was not about Michael, it was about Tia. While it’s regrettable that Maria had to go to Phillip without Michael’s knowledge, there was no other option available to her. Maria loves Tia and that means that she’ll put Tia before her own needs. It would have been better for Maria if she hadn’t gone to Phillip and she knew there could have been repercussions for her actions, but she did it anyway. And planting a seed is all well and good, but they take years to grow. Trees take more effort in the immediate short term, but it’s a lot quicker.
And Michael would never have gone to Phillip about that particular problem. Maria was right about his pride.
Natalie36
80’s_Unlove_Child
Zaneri1
Eve
Neve
Keepsmiling7
Scorpio6
Destiny
Crc1228-
Welcome! I’m glad you’re enjoying the story and even more so that you talk to yourself too. I do that all the time.

Part Forty One

'I eat dinner at the kitchen table
By the light that switches on
I eat leftovers with mashed potatoes
No more candlelight
No more romance
No more small-talk
When the hunger's gone'
When The Hunger’s Gone by Rufus Wainwright Ft. Dido


***

Leanna’s POV


I try to sleep, but I can’t. My head keeps replaying today’s humiliating episode in painstaking detail. Every look, every snigger, every harsh, angry word that flew out of Alex’s mouth is replayed on loop in my brain, keeping me from any sort of peace. There was once a time when Alex would never even dream of talking to me that way. God, I wish I could go back.

I sniff and wipe off the tears, my steely resolve hardening. I can deal with this. I’ve gotten through worse.

And this time I’m not ten years old, crying in the dark because my uncle touched me in strange places. I’m seventeen and able to cope with any shit life throws at me. The summer holidays are certainly going to help as well.

Yeah, my uncle did stuff to me, but I’m not a victim or whatever. I don’t care now, I really don’t. It was a long time ago and sex really isn’t that big of a deal. It never has been for me. I always figured if guys were going to take what they wanted then I may as well enjoy it.

I’ve blocked most of it out anyway, best to just forget about it all. The only strong memory I have is right after one of my uncle’s assaults I was walking with my parents down the main street of Roswell, feeling absolutely miserable as they fought. My parents always fight, it’s kinda the norm for them. When Dad’s not off plugging his secretary and Mom’s not dosing herself on painkillers it’s what they do. Anyway, Dad was calling Mom a slutty bitch and she was screeching about how he’d fuck anything that moved, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

There, sitting outside a cafe at a table, grinning widely was Isabel Evans. Her entire family looked like they’d just popped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Papa Evans was looking at his wife with undisguised love, Mama Evans was stroking a wayward hair from Isabel’s face and Max was proudly displaying his shiny new baseball bat which he was so excited to use for his little league game. Her entire family stiffened and turned towards the commotion as my family took the fun out of dysfunctional, while I trudged along in misery. As they waited for the unpleasant interruption in their wonderful lives to move on, Isabel caught my eye and shot me a look of pity. A look of fucking pity.

And I have never hated anything as intensely as I hated Isabel Evans in that moment. I hated everything about her and her perfect fucking life and I hoped she choked on her strawberry milkshake and burned in hell.

Who was she to look down on my life and deem it so inferior to hers that it merited a look of pity? I’d show her who deserved to be pitied.

So I tried in vain to beat her at everything she attempted. I tried to get better grades than her. That was a dismal failure.

I tried running for class president against her in middle school. That was also a dismal failure.

I tried to make the boys adore me instead of her and my success with that was only fleeting. Luckily for me by the time I’d thought of that idea, most guys were willing to do anything for sex. I’d lure them away from her with promises of lurid adventures, only to get slapped in the face the next day when they’d go crawling right back to her, still desperate for any scrap of attention she would sparingly throw their way.

I believed for a very long time that guys didn’t care about girls; that they were only in it for sex. And then I noticed Alex. Shy, sweet, completely infatuated Alex. He was most definitely not my type, but he was Isabel’s. I saw the way she looked at him and I saw the way he looked at me. What had been a barely noticeable annoyance suddenly became the most important thing in my life. I had finally done it. I had found something that Isabel coveted, and the best thing about it was that it was already mine. I just had to snap my fingers and say the word and Alex was my lap dog.

At first I didn’t care that I was using him and having sex with other guys whilst I did it, I had assumed that he wanted to use me just the same. But slowly, over time, I began to realise that that wasn’t true. Alex cared about what I thought, he wanted to know how I felt and he was genuinely fine with taking things slow on the physical side of things. I felt like I had hit the jackpot. Here was this elusive “nice guy” that everyone had told me existed, but I had thought was an oxymoron.

His friends of course didn’t like me, but I didn’t care. They were of no use to me, although I did see their burgeoning friendship with Isabel and wished that there was a way I could put a stop to it, but by then it was too late. They already hated me. But even that still couldn’t taint what I had going for me. I had it. I had the nice guy that Isabel wanted above all other things.

Everything was just about perfect. And then that fucking bitch had to come along and ruin everything again. I couldn’t believe he’d taken her side over mine. After everything he’d said and done, he still placed Isabel over me. It was a betrayal and shock like no other. In a moment of weakness, I called up one of my standbys and let him pound me senseless. And when I spotted Alex walk through the door as Vincent fucked me into the mattress, I felt vindicated.

I’d show him. I’d show him how it felt to have someone else put before him. I’d show him how it felt to come in second place. He was meant to love me. He was meant to come back on his hands and knees, begging for me back.

But he didn’t. Even when I made out with Vincent a couple of lockers down from him he still wasn’t spurred into action.

And then he got together with that fucking bitch. After every vow he’d ever made me, every promise of eternal love, he forgot about me and Isabel Evans’ life was once again perfect.

She’s taken everything I’ve ever wanted and now she’s even stolen something I once had.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in love with Alex. But I so easily could have fallen for him, with a little time.

***

Liz’s POV


I rush from the bathroom as my cell phone rings on my nightstand. I make a wild grab for it and hear Maria’s watery voice on the other end of the line. She sounds like she’s about to cry and that is never a good thing. “Hey, I need you. Can I come over?”

“Sure,” I reply, a hint of worry in my voice. “You ok?”

Her response is abrupt and I can tell she’s fighting back her emotions. “No. We’ll talk when I get there.”

“Ok, drive safe.”

She says goodbye and hangs up, leaving me to ponder just what she could be so upset about. I hope nothing’s seriously wrong and it’s just another fight with her mom.

When she arrives, she seems to be in a state of shock, like she can’t quite believe what’s happened to her. I’m absolutely terrified as to what that might be.

I take her hands and lead her over to my bed and make her sit down on it as she stares off into the distance, struggling to reign in her tears.

She sits next to me fidgeting for a moment and then takes a deep shuddering breath as she looks at the ceiling trying vainly to blink away tears. “Michael broke up with me.”

My eyes widen and I stare at her in disbelief. “What? No... there’s no way.”

She lets out something that sounds like a mix between a laugh and a sob. “Oh there’s a way. He wouldn’t tell Phillip that he’d been paying off Meg for Tia, so I told him. And now Michael thinks that I betrayed him... the way he looked at me, Liz... it was like...” she trails off and bursts into tears, covering her face with her hands.

I pull her into my arms and let her cry on my shoulder, holding her tightly as she tries to stifle her sobs. Unfortunately for her they won’t be stifled. She gets more out of control in her grief as the seconds pass. I say nothing, knowing that nothing I can say right now could do her any good. She just needs to cry.

“Hello Lizzy, I was thinking that we could...” Alex trails off when he catches sight of an hysterical Maria sobbing in my arms. He pauses in the doorway for a split second before shutting the door behind him as he rushes over to us, sitting the other side of Maria so that he can add his embrace to the mix.

“What’s going on?” he mouthes to me while Maria sobs on my neck.

“Michael broke up with her,” I mouth back in exaggerated way. I can see that it’s just as much of a surprise to Alex as it was to me a minute ago.

When she’s calmed down enough, she tells us the full, much more detailed version of events that led up to this point. I wince as she describes the fight knowing just how painful that must have been for her. And while I can sort of see where Michael is coming from, my loyalties totally lie with Maria. Not just because she’s my best friend, but because I believe that she did the right thing.

By not asking for Phillip’s help, Michael was endangering Tia and Tia deserves stability and a loving home. Meg could have rescinded on her side of the deal at any point in time and taken Tia back. If Michael wouldn’t fight for Tia, then I’m glad that Maria was willing, despite that she knew that it could – and did – lose her her boyfriend.

“Do you think I did the wrong thing?” she asks, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Absolutely not,” I reassure her.

Alex gives his opinion as well. “No way. You did the right thing. For both of them, even if Michael can’t see that right now.”

Maria gives us a watery smile and then chokes back a sob. “God, I am so sick of crying.”

“I think it’s time for junk food and chick flicks,” I tell her, heading over to my ready stash of DVD’s. “Alex, can you go downstairs and get some icecream and other stuff from the fridge?”

“I’ll go,” Maria tells us, getting up from the bed. “If I have to eat it to feel better, then I want to choose it.”

She wanders off downstairs slowly and I turn to Alex once she’s gone. “You know, I can’t see this as being very much fun for you, Alex. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want. I got this one.”

He smiles sadly at me and shakes his head. “I would be the most ungrateful bastard if I cut and run now, Liz. Especially after what you two did for me after my breakup with Slutty McSlutterson. Besides, I’ve been friends with you two for so long that sappy romance flicks are my old friends. I say bring ‘em on.”

On impulse I throw my arms around Alex’s neck and squeeze him tightly. He’s the best. I don’t know what I did to deserve him as a friend, but I’m damn glad that I did it.

***

Isabel’s POV


I lean against the counter sipping a glass of orange juice as Mom smiles happily, smoothing out the gingerbread dough with her rolling pin. If she wasn’t wearing a business suit, she’d look like the ultimate domestic goddess, complete with the obligatory smear of flour on her nose.

“Gingerbread, huh Mom? I don’t think we’ve had that in years.”

She sends me a smile over her shoulder and then uses her forearm to try and wipe off some of the wayward flour on her nose. “The centre is having a party for all the kids heading off to kindergarten next year, so I volunteered to make some gingerbread. Do you know if Tia likes gingerbread?”

I pause for a moment, pondering the question before shaking my head in the negative. “She’s probably never tried it before, Mom. Meg’s a selfish bitch, and as wonderful as he is, Michael isn’t exactly Martha Stewart.”

“Well, she can try some when she gets home,” Mom says decidedly, using the cutter to make perfect little boys and girls that she picks up carefully and arranges on the greased tray before popping them in the oven. “And if she doesn’t like it, we can make her some cupcakes. Everyone likes cupcakes.”

My eyes light up at the idea. “Ooh, can we make cupcakes anyway?”

She grins at me and wags a threatening finger in my direction. “Ok, but you’re staying away from the frosting. I know what you’re like. I’ve got your number.”

I roll my eyes at her. “My evil plan to eat all the frosting is foiled. You know me too well.”

“I’m your mother, it’s my job.”

I smile at her, feeling the insane tightness in my chest again. I couldn’t love my parents more for what they’ve done for me and Max. They’ve taken us in, cared for us, loved us and shown us what a real family is like. I can never repay them for that.

“Do you know how Michael’s doing?” Mom asks me in a hushed whisper.

I shake my head. “He doesn’t want to talk about it. I don’t think there’s much we can do until he opens up to us. But from what I can get from Liz and Alex, the break up was fairly rough. He’s feeling pretty betrayed I think.”

“Well, I for one love Michael, but I’m completely grateful to Maria. Can you imagine the hell it would have put us and Tia through if that awful woman had ever come back for her?”

I shrug and take another sip of my juice before I answer her. “I don’t think Michael’s thinking about this too logically at the moment. I’m sure with time he’ll come around. At least I hope he will,” I add with a frown.

I turn towards the kitchen doorway as I hear Tia and Dad enter the house as noisily as they possibly can it seems. He’s telling her that he used to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle until his shell fell off and she’s asking what Teenage Rupert Minger Turtle is. I guess it was funnier back when we were kids.

“Hello Tia!” Mom greets, bending down to pull Tia into her arms. Tia stiffens as per usual, but then eagerly returns the hug. She’s still cautious when it comes to physical contact, especially with my parents, but when she’s certain that the touching isn’t going to hurt her, she throws her entire being into it.

“Hewwo!” Tia chirps into Mom’s neck, a piece of paper clutched in her tiny fist as clings to Mom.

“How was your day, sugar beet?”

“Look at dis!” Tia exclaims, thrusting a piece of paper under Mom’s nose.

Mom pulls the piece of paper from Tia’s clutches and stares at for a moment. “It’s gorgeous, Tia! Can you tell me what it is?”

Tia starts pointing out random squiggles on the paper and begins naming them. “Dat’s me... Max... Mitael... Belly... Daddy... and you, Mommy.”

Mom’s mouth falls open in shock and her eyes well with tears. That’s the first time Tia has called her Mom.

“Oh sweetheart...” Mom falters, trying to find the right words to say. “It’s beautiful, I’m going to pin it up on the fridge.”

I look over at Dad and notice that he’s a little teary eyed too. I wager that this is the first time she’s called him Daddy as well.

***

Liz POV


“Worst day ever?” Max asks me as I lean into him while he guides me through the mall.

“You have no idea,” I groan. “Maria’s so devastated and she’s one of those people that after the initial break down, you can’t get them to talk about what’s hurting them. So she’s going to bottle it up and explode at random intervals. So it’ll make the next few months interesting to say the least.”

“Luckily we have the summer to deal with that,” Max tells me, a grimace of his own spreading across his face. “While I try to figure out how to deal with Michael and his heartbreak.”

“How inconvenient,” I sigh. “So many potential double dates gone out the window.”

“Though you get to go to work with both of them, so it’ll be like chaperoning the most awkwardly heartbreaking date ever in which the two people are angry, heartbroken and depressed over the other.”

I groan at the prospect. “Oh lucky me. I think it’s time I cut back on some volunteering hours. Just for my sanity.”

Max laughs before his expression turns despondent again. “Do you think they’ll get back together?”

“I hope so. Maria was so closed off from me at school today, it’s like she’s turned into this robot. She won’t even talk to me about it and I hate seeing her hurt like that when I know there’s nothing I can do or say to make it right.”

“I know the feeling,” he mutters, before turning his attention back to his surroundings. “What are we looking for here exactly?”

I shrug into his side as we wander along. “We’re just here to shop.”

“Yeah, but what are we shopping for?” he persists.

I send him a strange look. “Nothing.”

He sends me a similar look back. “We’re here to shop for... nothing?”

“That’s right. If something take my fancy I’ll get it, but right now I’m content to window shop.”

Max lets out an almighty groan. “Oh sweet Jesus... what did I agree to?”

“You agreed to spend time with me in a venue of my choice,” I remind him sweetly. “So suck it up.”

“Can I at least get an ice cream?”

I’m somewhat confused by his question. “Sure.”

“Awesome,” he grins. “You’re way cooler than my Mom.”

I narrow my eyes at him and send him a quizzical look. “I should hope so.”

“She never lets me have ice cream when she drags me shopping with her,” he explains.

I roll my eyes at his injured tone. “Such a cruel woman. How do you cope?”

“So scarred,” he whispers with fake emotion. “Being here, it brings back so many memories. Oh, post traumatic stress! I think I need to get out of here and de-stress by going to the movies.”

“No.” I ignore his whining and turn to more pleasant thoughts. “Did you wanna go out for dinner tonight?”

Max raises his eyebrows at me, looking shocked. “Liz Parker... are you asking me out on a date?”

I waggle my eyebrows at him suggestively. “I might be. Depends on your answer.”

“You brazen hussy.”

I laugh at the scandalised look on his face. “That’s me, the brazenest of all brazen hussies that ever hussied.”

“Back in my day, women never asked men out, they’d have been hung from a tree and horse whipped for even daring.”

“Well excuse me, Grandpa Scroggins. I didn’t mean to offend your delicate sensibilities.”

He takes on this haughtily offended look and I roll my eyes. “Well you did. There is a punishment for that, you know.”

“Enlighten me.”

He stops in the middle of the walkway, blocking some pissed off shoppers and pulls me in close to him, his hand cupping the side of my face. “You have to kiss me.”

He pulls leans in for a slow, Earth shattering kiss and I have to cling to him just to keep myself from falling over. I don’t know what it is about him, but he knocks my entire world out of balance.

***

Michael’s POV


“Mitael, tan we do see Mawia?" Asks Tia from my bedroom floor where she's been lying for the past ten minutes drawing very seriously. "I wanna show her dis dwawing I did. I drewed her and me on da swings.”

My heart clenches in my chest at not only the mention of Maria but at the idea of what I’m about to tell Tia. This will devastate her.

“Tia...” I begin with a long, plaintive sigh, pulling her into my lap. “We need to have a little talk, ok?”

She nods, looking a little confused. “Otay.”

“You see... Maria and I... we... had a bit of a falling out.”

Her little brow puckers with confusion. “What’s dat mean?”

I keep my eyes on her, judging her reaction carefully as I tell her what she won’t want to hear. “We... we’re no longer friends. So she probably won’t be coming around her anymore.”

“I... I don’t unnerstand,” she tells me, her eyes welling up and her bottom chin wobbling. I knew letting her get attached to Maria was a bad idea.

“Sometimes people just aren’t meant to be friends, Tia. It doesn’t mean that either of us are bad people, it just...” I feel tears start to sting my eyes at the thought of Maria, so I do what I usually do whenever I start to miss her. I dig for the anger and feeling of betrayal and smother the hurt with that. It usually works, but seeing Tia’s tears makes it harder for some reason.

“Did I do somefing wong?” she whispers, a few tears rolling down her cheeks.

This is killing me. “No! Tia... it’s not about you. It’s between Maria and I.”

“But I don’t unnerstand!” she repeats, this time her voice has been reduced to a low wail as the tears overcome her. “Why tan’t you be fwiends again?”

I make a desperate grab for anything to keep her tears at bay. I can’t stand being the cause of her sadness. I just can’t. “You’ll still see her at the centre, Tia. She just won’t be coming around here anymore.”

Her breath hitches in her throat and it takes a large effort for her to talk over her tears. “But I want her to tome awound here! I want you to be fwiends again!”

I take a deep breath and try to talk over the tightness of my throat. “I’m sorry Tia. We have some problems that I just can’t fix.”

Problems you don’t want to fix, the voice in my head reminds me curtly. You haven’t even tried.

I block out the annoying voice in my head as Tia sobs broken heartedly on my chest, hiccupping and barely able to breathe under the weight of her heart break. God, I feel like absolute shit right now. I wrap my arms tighter around her, ignoring the insistent squeeze of my heart that’s been a problem ever since I broke up with Maria.

It’s only when I feel the first tear roll down my cheek that I realise that I’m crying too.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) A/N 26th January 10

Postby Rowedog » Thu Jan 28, 2010 9:43 am

Hey guys, just wanted to say thank you again to anyone who nommed or voted for me. I love my awards and while it feels kinda special to win Favourite Supporting Maria and Michael for two years running (for different fics, obviously) I have to say that my favourite is Best All Around Fanfic. That one I thought I stood no chance of winning, so the fact that those of you who voted for it considered it to be worthy just humbles me. Thank you, you’re all awesome.

Eve
BB-
Really, you don’t want my writer’s block, because it comes with a large side of neuroticism and self doubt.
Ellie- You know, you can spell it as center if you want. It’s just my crazy British/Australian spelling. I change Mum into Mom, but that’s as far as I go. You can all just decipher the rest of my slightly different words because it’s off putting for me to spell them in a different way while I’m on a roll :lol:.
Zanity- Welcome back! Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the rest of NID and that HB is even more enjoyable for you.
While I agree that Maria did the right thing I understand why Michael feels the way he does too.
Me too. Michaels feelings are valid and understandable, they’re just a bit frustrating.
And as for Leanna... I always feel like there’s two sides to every story and I always thought of her as very complex, so I thought she deserved at least one POV section. Though I doubt you’ll get any closure on that part of the story. Leanna lacks two things that are necessary for her to get better: the desire to get better or even recognise that she has a problem and anyone who cares enough about her to want to push her to get help. So she won’t be getting fixed, at least not in the time frame of this fic.
Leila
Novy
Ginger
80’s_Unlove_Child
Neve-
Considering the recent events going on in Michael’s life, it’s probably fortunate he didn’t hear Tia calling them Mommy and Daddy.
Drogyn- Don’t be on anyone’s side. I love them both and want them back together, so I consider myself to be on their side. Join Team Candy with me and we’ll be like Switzerland (by that I mean that we’ll be neutral, not makers of clocks and pocket knives). Welcome, by the way! Glad to have you here and I’m glad you’re enjoying it.
Zaneri1- I always aim for ten pages, so it’s the same size as my other updates.
Emz80m
MILA-
Thank you, I’m glad you’re enjoying it.
he's turned to Maria for a reality check and some saner advice. (Which indicates the extent of his damage, :lol: )

I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met. Let me introduce myself: I’m Alison Big-Fan-Of-Maria (My parents went a bit crazy with the hyphens).
I’m really glad to have you here and I hope you like where I’m taking this fic.
Congratulations! Looks like I discovered this just in time.

Just in time for what? I’m puzzled :lol:
April- You finally caught up! Yay! Glad to have you here.
I think the biggest compliment is that, with this story, you've done a great job externalizing the internal conflict. You've taken a plot and introduced conflicts that are so inside the characters and shown how it manifests itself outside in their family relationships and romantic relationships. Awesome job.

Thank you! That is a big compliment.
Just out of my curiosity, did you have the twist that Michael and Tia were Max and Isabel's siblings planned from the very beginning? Or did you get inspired to add it in as you wrote?

From the very beginning. I had been waiting since August 2008 to put that in there. I had the revelation written about a year beforehand because I couldn’t wait. I never overtly hinted towards it, because that would have ruined the surprise, but everything was planned and geared towards that twist. It was so fantastic to actually put that in there after all that time.
And I know you've said that finding song lyrics is a pain in the ass, but you should know that I always look at your song lyrics! You have great taste in music, girl.

Thank you, though sometimes I picked songs I didn’t like just because they had fitting lyrics.
Scorpio6
Steph


Part Forty Two

'You packed your last two bags.
A taxi's 'round the bend.
You used to laugh out loud,
But you can't remember when.
You lost your lies.
It's like your moving out of time,
And the whole word
crumbles right beneath you.

So, I might've made a few mistakes,
But that was back when you would smile,
And we would go everywhere,
But we ain't been there for awhile.
And this I know,
There's a place that we can go-
A place where I can finally let you know.

'Cause I'm the one that loves you lately.
You and me, we got this great thing.
We're the only one's that around,
We're the only one's that around this Babylon.'
Love You Lately by Daniel Powter


Maria’s POV


“MAWIA!”

I turn startled and then grin as I see Tia pelting towards me. I drop down to one knee and open my arms wide. She collides into me, her arms wrapping themselves tightly around my neck.

I laugh at the enthusiastic embrace, it’s like she hasn’t seen me for a year instead of just a couple of days. My eyes flick up involuntarily and I see that Michael was her mode of transportation into the centre today. I swallow back every bitter feeling and focus instead on Tia, who still hasn’t released her grip on me.

“Hey sugar plum, what’s happening?” I ask her in the most cheerful voice I can muster with Michael standing ten feet away from me.

“You and Mitael aren’t fwiends anymore,” she tells me in a tearful voice, her arms not relinquishing their death grip.

Well, there’s nothing like a child for telling it like it is. I rub her back soothingly and my eyes seek out Michael, sending him the most angry glare I have ever produced. He averts his eyes and stares at the wall.

It’s one thing for him to dump me, but to tell Tia about it? Honestly, just because we’ve broken up does not mean that I’m going to be out of her life. I may not be swinging by the Evans’ house to see him anytime soon, but why wouldn’t I go there to visit Isabel or to hang out with Max and Liz? He didn’t need to tell Tia anything, but no... he had to go and be a big, selfish jerk and lay his problems on Tia. Jesus Christ, he is emotionally retarded.

I pry her off me and take her tear stained face between my hands, keeping a smile on my face and my voice cheerful. “That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, does it? Now how about I take you to Miss Anna and she can tell you what fun things you’re going to be doing today? Sound good?”

She nods and wipes her eyes with her sleeve and then clutches my hand tightly when I offer it. I turn and walk off, not bothering to glance in Michael’s direction again. I don’t care if he thinks that I should disappear from his life just because we broke up. Someone has to be on Tia’s side and consider her needs. Once again that job appears to have fallen to me. The furious maelstrom of emotions that’s been careening around inside me seems to have settled on a large overtone of rage.

I’ll settle for rage. It’s way more satisfying than the all encompassing sadness I’ve been enduring.

***

Michael’s POV


“Hey Michael, you got a minute?” asks Phillip as he pops his head into the door of my room.

“Sure,” I reply, needing a break from my essay anyway.

He takes a seat on the bed adjacent to my desk and claps his hands between his knees. “What are you doing next Saturday?”

I am instantly wary of his intentions for coming in here now. “Nothing, why?”

“Have you heard of the upcoming motor show?”

Of course I’d heard of it. I would give my left leg and my right nut to go, but the tickets are frigging expensive. “Yeah, I have.”

“Well, I have two tickets if you wanted to go with me.”

“Are you kidding?” I demand, my eyes just about popping out of my head. “You’re shitting me.”

“Nope. Not shitting you.” He reaches into his pockets and pulls out the tickets, handing them to me. “Take a look.”

I rub my hands over the glossy tickets, figuratively drooling over them. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able actually hold them in my hands. These cost a frigging mint, due to all the car enthusiasts in New Mexico who can actually afford to buy Mercedes and the like.

“Max couldn’t go?”

Phillips sounds a little bit put out by my question. “I bought those for you and me. I thought it would be nice for us to just hang out.”

I overlook Phillip’s use of the term ‘hang out’ and instead just stare at the tickets. I can’t believe this. “Are you sure? I mean, I’m sure you have other people you’d rather take...”

“Nope.”

I bite my lip as I look at the tickets with deep longing. “I can’t really afford a ticket to this.”

“I’ve already bought the tickets Michael. You just have to come. We’ll take my car and leave at about 6 am. I want to get there early.” Phillip claps me on the shoulder and ducks out of the room before I can protest. I think he planned that swift manoeuvre.

Which leaves me wondering... what’s his game? Is he throwing all this stuff I can’t afford in my face so that I realise how much lower in class I am than them? Newsflash Phillip, I’d already sort of figured that out.

I shrug it off and head out to the backyard where the shed is. The Evans’s were kind enough to shift all their crap from there and it’s now my studio. They’ve lain down some old sheets, but they genuinely don’t seem to care if I splatter paint everywhere. If Hank had ever come out of his stupor for long enough to notice that I’d spilt paint in his trailer, I’d have gotten the beating of a lifetime. Not that the trailer was pristine to begin with, but usually Hank was just looking for an excuse.

I pick up my paintbrush and sigh in relief as I begin to paint. I don’t have to think in here. There is nothing cerebral about my paintings, it’s the only time I ever let my guard down and allow myself to feel everything that’s going on in my life.

I throw myself into the mindless physical task and let go of everything I’m feeling. It’s such a good way to vent and if I hadn’t stumbled upon the art room during middle school when I was trying to evade detention, I may have ended up in jail by now. I was on a very fast track to delinquency, but painting seemed to be the only thing that ever calmed me down. Art was what raised me and it was the best parental figure I ever had.

I lose track of time passing, letting myself paint uninhibited like I haven’t done in a very long time. I don’t have to go to a shift later on. I don’t have to go to class tomorrow. I don’t have to put Tia to bed. Grief slashes through me and I wince at the reminder that I’m no longer the most important person in Tia’s life anymore. I’ve lost her and I’ve lost Maria. How stupid was I to think that someday the three of us would be a family? Such a stupid fucking pipe dream. Things like that don’t happen to me.

I think about getting on my bike and never stopping. The wind whipping through my hair as I travel from place to place, never putting down roots. Roots are stupid anyway. Everyone assumes that because you’ve made ties to people that they’re unbreakable, when all it takes is one firm tug and you’re left dangling on your own again. Maybe it’s better that way. If you don’t want anything, you can never be disappointed.

“Wow... Michael these are incredible...”

I whirl, completely caught off guard and at my most vulnerable. I stare at Isabel and Max, my eyes wide with fear. They can’t see me like this. They just can’t.

Max continues, seemingly oblivious to my discomfort. “How did you learn to paint like this?”

“What are you guys doing here?” I ask as I scramble for some sort of emotional stability. I’ve never let anyone see me like this and I’m not about to start now.

“Mom sent us to let you know that dinner will be in ten minutes,” Isabel informs me, before her eyes are caught by the painting in the corner, the one I’ve purposefully tried to hide. Oh god no... not that one.

“Is that us?” she asks, a strange waver to her voice.

“It’s not finished,” I mutter as Max joins her in front of the painting. “I heard Diane’s birthday was coming up and I thought she might like a painting of her family all together... never mind, it’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid,” Isabel declares, pushing away the dirty sheet I was attempting to cover up the painting with. “It’s amazing. Mom will absolutely love it.”

I take another look at the painting of their family and I reassess my feelings on it. “You think so?”

“Absolutely,” Max agrees, before his eyebrows narrow and he moves closer to get a better look at it. “Wait, where are you?”

Isabel rolls her eyes at Max. “He’s not finished yet. As if he’d give Mom a painting that was missing a family member, you derr brain.”

Max raises one eyebrow at her. “Derr brain? Good one. I’ll have to save that one for later use.”

“You do that,” answers Isabel simply and I long to somehow find a way into their effortless sibling banter.

“Hey Michael, what are you doing tomorrow?”

I shrug, not having considered what I’ll do tomorrow. Usually if I had a free day, I’d hang out with Maria... I shy away from that thought and the fresh wave of pain it brings me. “Nothing, why?”

“Wanna go down to the park? I was thinking you and I could play some Frisbee, or catch, or some football if you wanted. Whatever really. I thought Isabel could bring Tia and we’d all just hang out... you know, if you wanted to.”

I can’t help the slow smile creeping over my face. “Yeah, ok.”

***

Max's POV


“You know what I think?” I ask Liz as she stares straight ahead, completely focussed on what she’s doing. “I think you like my Nintendo Wii more than you like me.”

“Yeah... maybe,” she replies distantly, clearly not having listened to a word I’ve said. I laugh and then grin at the look of absolute concentration on her face. She won’t admit defeat even though she’s lost this race about twenty times.

“Oh... goddammit!” She cries, letting the wheel drop from her hands as she falls off the side of the track for the seventh time this lap.

“I don’t think you and Mario Kart’s Rainbow Track are a good mix.”

“It’s not my fault that it’s demented,” she pouts. “I could do all the other ones just fine, but this one is just... fucked.”

“You did do all the other ones just fine,” I tell her in a soothing tone.

“Tell me you have troubles with that one too.”

I pause for a moment considering my answer. “Absolutely. Hate that one. Can’t do it.”

Her eyes narrow and I know that I paused for too long. She knows I’m lying.

“Really? Then how come you’ve got the fastest record for this track?”

Another pause. “I have no answer for that question.”

“Are you lying to me, Max?”

“Maybe a little bit.”

She lets out an exasperated sigh and I scoot over closer to her, till I’m behind her where she’s sitting on the edge of my bed. I spread my legs and shift in till her back is pressed up against my front. I place my hands over hers on the wheel and restart the race, gently guiding her hands.

“No,” I whisper in her ear. “Don’t turn too sharply, you’ll go over the edge.”

We’re about halfway through the race and I can’t help but notice her proximity to me. It’s making me heat up like a flame. I notice her breathing has gotten shallower and before I even realise what I’m doing, I’ve lowered my head and I’m inhaling into her neck sharply, just breathing her in.

Liz’s head turns and I don’t know who initiates the kiss, me or her. But we’re kissing, slowly and languidly, with only a hint of desperation.

The wiimote falls unnoticed, colliding with the floor with what is probably a loud bang, but I can’t hear it. All I can hear is Liz. Liz’s harsh breath in my ears, the whisper of her shirt against mine, cotton against cotton.

Now see, this is the tricky bit. Liz’s hands love to roam while she’s kissing me. It’s a real turn on and I love it, but right now we’re trying to stay turned off.

And it’s getting harder and harder to do.

I lay down on the bed cradling her head so that she follows me down and I take the opportunity to roll onto her, feeling more of her than I have in months. Instead of fulfilling the burning ache, it only makes it burn hotter. I’ve never wanted to bury myself inside her more than in this very moment.

Liz must feel it too, because her movements get wilder, more out of control. My hand slips pushes her shirt up and pulls her right bra cup down. Oh, my old friend, I’ve missed you so.

By this stage, Liz is tugging at my belt buckle and I feel like crying with relief when she finally gets it undone. I push her skirt up and settle myself against her, grinding against her. Satin boxers and lace underwear have never felt more heavenly to me. Even with the cloth barrier of our underwear, I can feel my orgasm swiftly approaching. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been like this with Liz and due to those repressed memories, I haven’t even been able to jerk the gherkin without an ugly memory raising its head.

I can’t stop. Oh God... I can’t stop. It’s been far, far too long since I’ve been like this. Liz feels like home to me and believe me, I’ve been motherfucking homesick.

I feel Liz’s hips jerk wildly, hear her gasp, feel her fingers clawing into my back and I know she’s got there before me. Just the knowledge that my girlfriend is falling apart under me is enough for me to follow her over the edge.

I lay there for a moment, my head buried in her neck before raising my head to look at her. Her skirt’s up around her waist, her shirt’s up around her armpits and her right boob is poking out. Not to mention that I’m bare chested, with my pants around my ankles and jizz in my boxers. We look like two horny, hormonal teenagers, just like we’re supposed to be. In that moment, everything is just about perfect. We’re just two kids messing around while our parents aren’t around without any fucked up issues getting in the way.

Liz lets out a long, deep breath and I take that moment to break silence. “Well that was...”

“Probably a bad idea,” Liz answers for me. “Did you... with the memories...?”

I shake my head, the silly grin on my face stretching even wider, if that’s possible. “Not one.”

Her brow creases with worry, nonetheless. “But still... we really shouldn’t have done that.”

I snort, her downer attitude unable to spoil my good mood. “I refuse to apologise for it. In fact, I think we should try it again.”

I lower my head to kiss her again, but she shoves me off of her, pulling her shirt down as she goes. She gets up off the bed and pulls her skirt down, readjusting herself with sharp, seemingly furious actions.

“Goddammit Max! When are you ever going to take this seriously?” she asks me, her voice low and furious.

“What?” I ask, rolling over and pulling my pants back up. I can somehow sense that Liz isn’t really in the mood for intimacy. Yeah, I’m clever like that.

“Max, why do I always have to be the one in charge of your mental health? Why do I always have to be the grown up? ‘Go to therapy, Max.’ ‘Let’s not have sex so you don’t regress, Max.’” She throws her hands up in the air and shakes her head in frustration.

“I wasn’t the only one on that bed, Liz!” I protest, feeling the first stirrings of anger I’ve ever felt towards her. “I didn’t just attach myself to your leg and go for it like a dog. I clearly recall you being an eager participant in my “regressing”. So don’t sit there and act like your shit doesn’t stink! Jesus!”

I turn away from her and run my hands through my hair. “You know, this is the first time in months that I’ve done something remotely sexual that hasn’t turned to crap, would it be so hard for you to just... I don’t know, not bring up the fact that I’m sexually damaged? It seems like all we ever do is talk about my problems. Just for five minutes I’d like to not be confronted with the fact that I’m fucked up beyond repair. You think that’d be ok with you, Liz?”

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, and just like that, all my rage dissipates. She looks miserable and ashamed.

“No, Liz...” I begin, but she swiftly cuts me off.

“I know that I talk about it all the time and I know it must be hard for you to feel normal when I do that. I only do it because I worry about you and I want you to get better. I just don’t want to do anything to make it worse.”

I sigh and sit down on the bed, patting the spot next to me in invitation. She sits next to me and I take her hand in mine.

“I know you’re worried for me. And I love you for that. But there are times when I’d just like to be a normal seventeen year old boy. I love you and I won’t apologise ever for expressing that love physically. Period. I just won’t. And I needed this Liz. I needed to know that I’m not some sexual cripple. I needed to know that I can be with you without some problem of mine rearing its head. You can’t imagine how emasculating it is to not be able to be with your girlfriend because of your sexual problems.”

She nods her head and we both fall silent, both contemplating what just happened.

“So that was our first fight,” she finally says.

“No it wasn’t.” I remind her. “Remember that time you yelled at me over the phone?”

She rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “A fight constitutes two people arguing over something, not one crazy bitch slamming her boyfriend for daring to call her when she’s busy.”

I kiss the side of her head. “You’re not a crazy bitch.”

“Well you get my point regardless.”

I nod. “Yes, I suppose it was our first real fight.”

“You got angry.”

I nod again. “I did.”

She bumps my shoulder with hers and smiles at me. “And you didn’t fly off the handle.”

I stroke her thumb with mine. “I don’t think I could ever fly off the handle at you, Liz.”

I know what I’m capable of and I know what I’m not. And what I’m not capable of is ever intentionally hurting Liz. I could never and would never do that.

She shrugs and squeezes my hand in hers. “I’m still proud of you. You managed your temper.”

“I guess I did,” I say, the grin returning slowly. I hadn’t even thought about it, but yeah, I kept my cool despite my fury. That’s definitely a good sign.

She bites her lip, as if she’s not sure if what she’s about to say will be received well, but has to say it regardless. “I still think you should tell David what happened. See if he thinks we were idiots.”

I let out a laugh at the rushed pace of her words. “Why do I have to tell him everything about my sex life? He’s such a sick voyeur.”

She lets out a snort of laughter and leans into me, my arm automatically coming around her shoulders. We sit there silently for a long while before I stand up and move away from her.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve got to change these boxer shorts. It is absolutely disgusting.”

Liz lets out a startled bark of laughter that leads to a long, richly fulfilling belly laugh. It’s so good to hear, you have no idea.

***

Michael’s POV


“Are you going to ignore me for the rest of your life, or is there a set period of time you’re going to ignore me for? Because I’d like to know, especially seeing as we’re going to be working together.”

Her voices pierces right into the innermost part of me, but I manage to keep my countenance. “I’m not ignoring you.”

She leans against the one of the benches in the art room and cocks her head at me with a challenging set to her features. I feel my heart ache in my chest and I desperately clamp down on it. “So this cold indifference is just normal for you and I is it? Sorry, my mistake.”

“We broke up, Maria,” is my simple response. Hopefully that’ll shut her up. It’s so much easier to deal with how I’m feeling when she’s not in my face, demanding to be seen and heard.

“Yeah, about that,” she begins, pushing herself up and moving over to stand in front of me. “You do know that you’re an asshole, right?”

“Matter of opinion,” I grunt, my hands gripping the paintbrushes I’m washing tighter.

“No, I’m pretty sure that breaking up with your girlfriend because she freed both you and your sister – who she loves by the way – from a psychotic, drug addict bitch makes you the worst kind of asshole. You self righteous bastard.”

“We are not rehashing this,” I reply hotly, feeling the sting of betrayal just as sharply as I had the first time. I begin to scrub harder, the bristles of the paint brush coming away from the force of my washing.

Maria laughs. “Oh of course not, just ignore the problem that’ll make it go away.” She moves in closer and I can feel the heat radiating from her. It takes every ounce of will power I have not to look at her. “But you should know one thing. I am not going to just disappear out of your life just because you want me to. I love Tia and I would never ever do that to her. So you just better get used to having me around, because I’m not going anywhere.”

She turns and stalks out and I can’t help but to turn my head and watch her leave. As much as I hate to say it, she’s magnificent when she’s pissed.

I turn back to my previous task and find that I just can’t be bothered washing them anymore. I honestly cannot find the willpower to finish the job.

Instead, I turn and fling them into the sink, enjoying the resonating clang as they strike the grubby metal. I sink into the nearest stool and rest my head on the bench and just focus on breathing. I can make it through this.

I know I can.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 42, 29th January 10

Postby Rowedog » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:09 am

Holy shit, I updated within a month? Wow. Wait... wait! Within a week! Holy shit! Somebody come make sure that I haven’t had a stroke and am not in a coma dream.

Alex and Isabel will be in the next updates dudes, I’m just preoccupied with M/M and Max at the moment.

In regards to the M/M talking part, it’s sort of how I wanted it to go, but not quite. I can’t figure out how to fix it, so you’ll just have to put up with it. Though I do love the song I picked for this update. Usually I just pick a verse with really fitting lyrics, but the whole song worked, so I'm stoked. Plus, I think it's a really, really sad song. Listen to it if you haven't heard it before.

OH! OH! AND I hit page 300 on this puppy! I know it's not a lot for other authors, but I'm excited. My longest fic yet!

Steph
BB-
Max and Liz make me laugh. Their fight lasted all of seven point four seconds.

I know! I wanted to make it longer, but I felt that Max made some really excellent points, and Liz isn’t exactly a very aggressive person. I couldn’t actually figure out a way that Liz could defend against it, so I figured their first real fight could be a short one.
Zanity
Ellie-
A/I in the next update. I’m trying to get through all the Michael stuff at the moment, so their issues are kinda on the back burner. There’s always so much crap I have to put in this fic, I often neglect aspects of it. So remind me if you want, I often appreciate it.
April-
Nice contrast to Michael and Maria, whose fight is still going strong. Like BB said, I think Michael was being an ass to Maria, but the insight you gives us makes me feel really sympathetic towards him.

Good, that’s what I was going for!
Oh, you're quoting Britney Spears there. "Gimme, gimme more! Gimme more! Gimme, Gimme!" :lol: Oh, I so love her.

Sometimes, I’m pretty sure that you’re Chris Crocker.
Natalie36
Ginger
Novy
Lauren-
Thanks pooks! Have I told you lately how proud I am of you? I’m so thrilled that you won Best Fanart Cover!
And the way you weaved in Insecure Attachments into the explanation of what Max has been repressing for so long was fucking brilliant. It was so flawless and it made the road to recovery so realistic.

Flawless? :lol: I’d have settled for striving for realism, but if you wanna go with flawless, by all means go ahead.
Eve
Leila
Zaneri1
Neve-
I think that Tia's youth is a huge advantage to her. Michael on the other hand has had a lifetime of being rejected and unloved and sadly a few months with Maria and a few weeks with the Evans family isn't enough yet.

You aren't wrong. In fact you're totally right.

Part Forty Three

‘So you sailed away
Into a grey sky morning
Now I'm here to stay
Love can be so boring

Nothing's quite the same now
I just say your name now

But it's not so bad
You're only the best I ever had
You don't want me back
You're just the best I ever had

So you stole my world
Now I'm just a phony
Remembering the girl
Leaves me down and lonely

Send it in a letter
Make yourself feel better

But it's not so bad
You're only the best I ever had
You don't need me back
You're just the best I ever had

And it may take some time to
Patch me up inside
But I can't take it so I
Run away and hide
And I may find in time that
You were always right
You're always right

So you sailed away
Into a grey sky morning
Now I'm here to stay
Love can be so boring

What was it you wanted
Could it be I'm haunted

But it's not so bad
You're only the best I ever had
I don't want you back
You're just the best I ever had
The best I ever had
The best I ever’
Best I Ever Had by Vertical Horizon


***

Michael’s POV


Max sucks at Frisbee.

And I’m not just saying this because he manages to drop any that I throw to him, but because he can’t seem to get it to fly within twenty feet of me.

“I thought you played football?” I ask with an accusatory eyebrow raise as I jog over to the tree that he’s got it stuck in.

“I do!” he protests. “But a Frisbee is completely different to a football. They are completely different in shape and in aerodynamics.”

“Excuses, excuses,” I laugh as I pull myself up into the lower branches of the tree.

“Michael!” Isabel calls out from the picnic blanket. “Be careful!”

“Yeah, yeah,” I reply casually, even as my insides clench with a peculiar mixture of joy and hope. She’s worried that I might hurt myself. She cares about my wellbeing. I shake myself out of those thoughts and clamber up to where the Frisbee is chilling out. I toss it down to Max and he actually manages to catch it this time.

“Well done!” I tell him in an overly enthusiastic tone. He’s not impressed.

“We’re going to keep doing this until I get it right,” he tells me, a look of grim determination on his face.

I shrug and jump out of the tree from the lower branches. “Ok then, I don’t have anything to do for the next week.”

Max scowls at me while Isabel laughs heartily. Tia looks up from her drawing, wondering what the commotion is, before deciding she’s not really that interested. She’s lying on her tummy on the picnic blanket, her little brow puckered, her feet crossed in the air and her tongue poking out the side of her mouth. She’s the very picture of cuteness and focus.

She takes her drawing very seriously, and while I know she may very well change and grow out of it, I can’t help but be flattered to think that her sudden obsessions with “dwawing” is inspired by me. Not that kids need much impetus to draw, but she always says she wants to be just like me.

“Oh it’s on now...” he tells me in grim voice, before flinging the Frisbee twenty feet to the right of me.

“Stop flicking your wrist so much,” I yell to him as he groans in despair. “You’re hooking it to the right.”

“This sucks,” he mutters, before taking my advice, sending it spinning right at my head. “Hey, cool!”

“Nice one,” I tell him, snapping it out of the air.

His next throws are a bit hit and miss, but overall, he’s not terrible.

A thought comes into my brain as Max manages to actually catch one this time. “Before I forget, who’s David? I heard you guys talking about how you have to go see David tomorrow.”

Max comes to a dead freeze mid throw. His eyes immediately lock onto Isabel’s and I instinctively withdraw from them. They’ve got a secret that outsider Michael isn’t privy to. After a resigned nod from Isabel, speaking their secret brother/sister code that I clearly can’t be a part of, Max turns back to me.

“Well, we’ve got some...” Max pauses to search for the right word, “problems after living with Meg.”

“Problems?” I repeat, wondering where this is leading.

“Yeah... so we go to therapy,” Max tells me reluctantly.

“Therapy?” I repeat, feeling a little redundant.

“Yeah,” he answers awkwardly. “Once a week we go see David to help us cope with our early childhood.”

“Does it work?” I ask with curiosity, though I have no real desire to lie down on a couch and tell some stranger my secrets.

He shrugs, his eyes avoiding mine. “It’s like anything in life, you get out what you put in. You have to actually work at it to get anywhere, but yeah, it works.”

“Your parents are cool with you going?” I enquire, wondering if Fancy Pants Lawyer Phillip’s terrified that having two fucked up kids is going to tarnish his reputation.

Max’s brow furrows at the question. “Our parents suggested it. When they started to see problems pop up they got scared for us, so therapy was looked into. They’re the ones that pay for it.”

I nod my head. “Huh.”

“Anyway,” he says after a moment, before tossing me the Frisbee. “It’s not a big deal.”

I nod again and send it back to him, my mind elsewhere.

***

Max’s POV


“You and Liz had a sexual encounter that didn’t result in a repressed memory?” David confirms once I’ve finished telling him about my experience. I’ve become better at revealing personal things with David. I think it’s because he takes everything so seriously. It’s like everything I have to say has weight and means something to him.

“We didn’t mean for it to happen,” I reiterate in case he’s pissed that I didn’t take his advice. “We were just kissing and it got out of hand and then-” I wave my hands about and make a frustrated grunt in the back of my throat at the thought of having to explain this to him. Luckily, David cuts me off and saves me any further embarrassment.

“Max, you don’t have to apologise in here. You have held off for a very long time and I do understand that sometimes things just happen. What I’m more interested in is what happened after that.”

I sink gratefully back into my chair and begin to recount what happened afterwards. “Well, Liz said that we shouldn’t have done that. I said that I refused to apologise for what we did and that we should try it again and then we got into an argument.”

David seems very intrigued by this. “An argument?”

“Yeah, she asked why she was always the one who had to look after my mental health and I called her a hypocrite because she was very much a willing part of what we did together. And then I got frustrated because I was so excited and so happy to be that close to her again and she’d reminded me of how fucked up I am sexually. I live with it. I don’t need to always talk about it.”

David leans forward, his eyebrows raised. It’s as animated as I think I’ve ever seen him. “You told her all this?”

“Yeah, I did. I told her that it made me feel emasculated and that I’d like a break from thinking about it now and then and she apologised. She said that she only did it because she loved me. I guess it was our first real fight.”

David nods, jotting it down in his handy little notepad he’s always using. “It sounds like a very healthy fight to me, Max. Probably a very necessary one.”

I send him a sceptical look. “There’s such a thing as healthy fighting?”

“Of course. Both you and Liz managed to get something that had been worrying each of you off of your chests and get it out in the open. Honesty is a very important part of a relationship, as you are aware. And it seems to me, Max, that you’re viewing yourself as more of an equal partner in this relationship, rather than just someone who’s lucky enough to be with Liz and can’t understand why she’d want to be with him. You spoke your mind to her regardless of backlash and I don’t think you’d have done that a couple of months ago.”

“I guess not,” I muse. “Though to be honest, that whole fight wasn’t really the main thing on my mind.”

David smiles at me and nods his head in understanding. “I suppose you were more concerned as to why you hadn’t had any memories pop up whilst you and Liz were together.”

“Do you think it was just a one off, that I’ll have another next time?” I ask eagerly, dying to know if he thinks that I can proceed with caution or wait again.

David gives me a non committal shake of his head. “Max, I can’t say for sure what will happen next time you and Liz become intimate, but let’s look at what we’ve achieved in here, Max. What do we do each session?”

“Well, I guess I come in here and we talk about my memories of my childhood,” I answer with a shrug.

“Yeah, we talk about them. We talk about how you felt while you were experiencing it, how you feel about it now and how those feelings differ and connect. We talk about them till there’s nothing left to talk about. And each time we talk about one, I see your resentment dwindle. Max, you’re coming to accept your past. You don’t like your past and I suspect you never will, but the burning fury that simmered underneath the surface is dying down. When you express your anger about your mother, it’s not vicious as it once was.

“Max, every time we discuss your memories and actually deal with them, you move on from that particular memory and in a broader sense you move forward from that particular time in your life. So telling me that you had a sexual encounter with your girlfriend which was healthy and repressed memory free isn’t surprising to me. I would have suggested waiting a while longer, but if you’re feeling confident, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t continue exploring that path. I’m cautiously optimistic that you should continue to be memory free.”

I sigh internally with relief that I can’t even begin to describe. I’m becoming normal. After so many years of feeling like a freak, I am actually becoming normal. I could cry from the sheer force of gratitude that’s washed over me.

“But, even having said that, if one does occur, you are in a much better place to cope with it now than you were a couple of months ago. You’ve come a very long way, Max. I think you should be extremely proud of yourself.”

I struggle to contain my grin, but just give in to it after a moment. I’m getting better and I do feel proud, why should I hide that?

David continues after a moment, and my previous euphoria quickly dissipates. “That’s not to say that we’re done here, we still need to work on your anger towards your biological mother.”

“What about it?” I ask, with a defiant snort. “I think I have a right to be pissed off with her. I think with everything I put up with because of her, I more than earned it.”

David nods, seemingly conceding with my point. “Yes, Max, you have every right to be angry with her. However, there is a big difference between having the right and it being healthy for you. People can stay at home and drink copious amounts of liquor until their liver is pickled and they have every right to do that; it’s their choice. However, it’s not healthy for them, just as you holding onto that anger isn’t healthy for you either, Max.”

I stare at him with bewilderment, unable to process what he’s trying to tell me. “What are suggesting I do? Forgive her?”

“Forgiveness is a gift to yourself, Max.”

I snort and shake my head, irritated and infuriated by David’s suggestion. “How could I possibly forgive her when she didn’t just do it to me, but to my siblings as well? She has no remorse, no conscience, there’s nothing good in her at all! She doesn’t deserve my forgiveness!”

David doesn’t even flinch at my raised voice or the anger that must be emanating from me, he just continues to speak in that maddeningly calm tone of his. “Well then, don’t think of it as forgiveness. More like a releasing of the anger. You don’t condone what she did and she’s still an evil person, but the anger is gone.”

I shake my head emphatically. “I can’t. I cannot just let what she did slide, I just can’t.”

David merely shrugs, his attention back on his note pad as he quickly scribbles something down. “Your anger is only affecting you, Max. You’re the one who’s suffering because of it.”

That pulls me up short. “What do you mean?”

“Anger is only effective as a weapon against another person when the other person is around to suffer the effects of it and actually cares about your anger. I gather that when you went to visit your mother she wasn’t exactly distressed that you hated her.”

I swallow heavily and concede to his point. “Not really, no.”

David looks at me over the top of his glasses, his pen down and his full attention on me. “So tell me Max, why are you wasting so much time and emotional energy on someone who is out of your life and couldn’t care less about you? Don’t get me wrong, Max. What happened to you was unfair and traumatic. Your feelings about it are valid and completely understandable. However, when these feelings start to intrude on your life, that’s when you have to let them go. If your past has so much of a hold on you that it’s interfering with your present, that’s when you have to move on.”

Ever since I was old enough to understand that my childhood made me different from my peers, I’ve hated Meg with an undying fury. She was the root of all my problems. My parents sent me to therapy because of her. My sister had nightmares because of her. I had a weak immune system and skin conditions thanks to malnutrition, so for two years I was almost constantly sick and scaly. She was the root of all evil. As far as I was concerned, I’d never had a problem that couldn’t be traced back to her.

But David’s words have struck a resonating chord within me. I don’t want to be angry all the time. I don’t want to be resentful and furious. Especially when it won’t make a damn bit of difference to Meg whether I am or not.

“So, how do I go about this ‘letting go’ business?” I ask David finally, after a very long period of silent contemplation.

David’s face breaks out into a wide grin and I don’t have to hear him say it, I know that he’s proud of me.

***

Michael’s POV


I try to focus as we both stand – well she’s sitting - behind the counter, our backs to one another. She’s on the computer trying to manage to work the system while Liz isn’t here and I’m looking in the filing cabinet for a spare set of sign up sheets for some prospective students in my art class. I don’t want to ask her for help, but I’ve been through the filing cabinet three times and I still can’t find it.

It’s as awkward as fuck in here.

I turn and debate with myself over whether or not I should ask her for her help, but instead I find myself watching her. She’s still so beautiful, but she looks sadder and more tired than I’ve ever seen her look before. She frowns in frustration at the computer screen and a small wrinkle develops right in the middle of her forehead, a clear sign that she’s just about had enough of the computer system.

I’m about to open my mouth and begrudgingly ask for her help, when the centre doors open and in stroll two of Maria’s classmates, both wearing football jackets. One of them claps the other encouragingly on the shoulder and then stands by the door. The clappee walks over to the desk with speculative smile on his face as his eyes roam over Maria.

My eyes flick warily to this douchebag who is so clearly checking out my girlfriend. Ex. Shit. Checking out my ex girlfriend.

“Hey Maria,” says the douchebag with flirtatious inflection to his voice. I try not to clench my fists in fury.

“Hey Rick,” she replies lightly, continuing to wrestle with the computer program, the cute little wrinkle in the middle of her forehead still present.

He leans over the desk which puts him at boob height and gives him a great view. “So,” he drawls out, not even bothered that I’m standing right here. “I heard you’re single now.”

I note with interest the quick stiffening of her shoulders, all the while overcome with impotent rage. I have absolutely no claim on her whatsoever, but that doesn’t mean that I can stand the idea of her being with another guy. Least of all this snot nosed, preppy punk. I just know that he’s having inappropriate, demeaning thoughts about her.

“That’s what they say,” she says in that same disinterested tone.

“In that case, you want to go out on a date sometime?”

My heart thuds painfully in my chest and I feel absolutely sick to my stomach with nausea and anxiety. There’s a long pause and I feel almost physically ill at what that silence could mean. She couldn’t possibly be considering his offer, could she?

“Thanks, Rick, but I think I want to be by myself for a while.”

He seems taken aback by her refusal, but quickly recovers, seemingly buoyed by the idea of dating her later. “Well, when you’re ready, let me know.”

“Sure. See you later.” She gives him a casual wave and I run her words through my head again. She said no. But the relief is tinged with more uncertainty. She had told him that she was going to let him know when she was ready to date.

I can’t believe I never even considered what it would be like when she began to date again. She’s beautiful, funny and such a caring person, of course guys are going to want to date her. I feel my gag reflex work in my throat as I imagine her out on a date with that dumb teenage jock. A whole series of images flash in my mind like a movie montage and it’s all centred around Maria. Maria out on a date. Maria falling in love. Maria looking into someone else’s eyes and telling them that she loves them. Maria making love to someone else. The last horrific image is so detailed and repulsive that I have to actually grip the filing cabinet and attempt to calm myself down.

I’ve made the biggest fucking mistake.

She goes back to typing as if the entire exchange never even happened while I stand with despair clutching at my heart.

“Maria...” I begin, not knowing quite what to say.

“Yeah?” she replies, not bothering to turn around and look at me.

“Do you...” I chicken out. “Do you know where the sign up forms are?”

She reaches over to her left and tugs at a drawer handle, revealing a whole wad of them. “There.”

“Since when have they been there?” I ask, annoyed that I’d spent so long looking for them in the filing cabinet.

Maria shrugs. “Since forever.”

She then grunts in frustration as the program still refuses to work for her. I smile a little and walk over to her, pressing my front up against her back as I place my hand over hers and move the mouse to the program she needs to be in.

“Here,” I murmur, noting with relief the way her entire body has stiffened. She’s still affected by me. I get the program up and running and then whisper, “There you go,” in her ear. I slowly pull back and feel the tightness in my chest loosen as she remains stiff long after I’ve pulled away.

She turns slowly and her eyes are narrowed in confused suspicion. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” I tell her, moving around to lean next to the computer, effectively blocking the exit.

“So... what are you up to?” I ask her with what I hope isn’t too much of an awkward smile. It’s hard to smile when it feels like someone’s got your heart in a vice and it feels like you’ll never be able to breathe properly ever again.

She sends me a scathing look that clearly implies how stupid she thinks I am. “Still trying to get this program to work.”

“I meant lately,” I amend, trying to calm the desperation rolling around in my guts. I feel positively sick and she looks... wonderful. What am I going to do if she doesn’t want me anymore?

“Lately?” she asks me quietly, a deadly edge to her voice. “My boyfriend dumped me recently. If you’d like to hear about that I’d be all too happy to tell you how much of a stupid jerk he is.”

I’m all too eager to agree. I am a stupid jerk. Why, oh why couldn’t I just have just sat down and talked to her about it? Maybe let her know how I felt instead of just going with my knee jerk reaction? “He sounds like one.”

Her eyes narrow as she stares at me, clearly wondering what my game is. She doesn’t trust my intentions and I deserve that. I’ve done a pretty fucking good job of destroying her faith in me.

She must think I’m the biggest bastard on the face of the planet, because her next actions prove that she thinks I’m here to toy with her emotions like some heartless dick.

“I should go and see if Mom needs any help,” she mutters quickly and practically leaps out of her chair. I intercept her movements by standing in front of her.

“Or...” I murmur, moving into her space and taking her into my arms, “you could stay here.”

“What’s gotten into you?” she asks, looking both puzzled and distressed. She thinks I’m just messing with her and it kills me that she could think that about me.

“I’ve realised something, Maria. I miss you.” My simple, sincere statement has her sucking in a sharp breath as she blinks back tears. “I was an ass and I’ve realised that I can’t do this without you. I can’t cope without you with me.”

“Really?” she whispers.

I nod my head and lean down to kiss her, but her hand on my chest pushes me back.

“Why now?” she asks, her eyes hardening.

I evade the question. “What do you mean?”

“Why is it that you decide that you want me back right after Rick asks me out? You were in here a good ten minutes before that happened and all the while you were pretending that I didn’t exist. Then Rick asks the question and you make a complete 180.”

She’s seen through me and I should have expected that. She’s not dumb. “He made me realise how much I still love you. The thought of you being with someone else was-”

“Oh you have got to be kidding me,” she grunts, interrupting me as she pushes my arms off of her.

I recoil in surprise as she glares at me. I just had her in my arms a second ago, what the hell happened between then and now to bring this about? “I thought you...”

“I don’t want you to be with me because you’re jealous and you don’t want anyone else to have me!” she exclaims in disgust. “I want you to want me back because you missed me so much you couldn’t think straight. That’s what I’ve been going through, Michael. You ended it and didn’t seem to care at all, but the moment another guy shows some interest, you can’t be without me. You don’t miss me, you’re just jealous and territorial.”

“I’m not!” I protest, wishing that I could go back in time and take back everything. “I love you and I want you back. I’m sorry that it took me this long to realise it and that it had to be some cheese dick named Rick who made it happen. But the feeling is real, Maria. I do miss you and I have been missing you. The break up wasn’t any easier for me.”

She scoffs, crossing her arms across her chest defiantly. “Sure looked that way from where I was standing.”

“What do I have to do to prove myself to you? Because I’ll do it.” I let out a long, plaintive sigh when she remains unmoved. “I just want you back.”

Maria stares at the floor, holding up her hand when I try to speak. She must be collecting her thoughts.

She finally looks up, an angry bitterness in her eyes that I’ve never seen before. “You put me through absolute emotional hell Michael. And all I did was make life easier for you. I couldn’t just stand by and watch that woman sap the life from you. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.”

I begin to apologise and she sharply cuts me off, even more angry than before.

“No! Shut up, I’m pissed off! I got punished and pushed away for simply caring about your ungrateful ass. I didn’t deserve any of it. As you can tell, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and I’ve decided that if you’re actually serious about wanting to get back together with me, you have to prove yourself to me. Because right now, I don’t trust you not to hurt me.”

“Ok, what do I have to do?” I ask eagerly, relieved that she’s still giving us a chance. I knew that everything we’d been through together had to mean something to her. She couldn’t just dismiss it that easily. A stab of fresh guilt runs through me at the thought that I had dismissed what we had on something so completely inconsequential. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Just tell me and I’ll do it.”

“I don’t know,” she tells me quietly. “I have no idea what you could possibly do that would make me trust you again.”

She slides past me and heads off towards Amy’s office and I’m left struggling to deal with what she just said. Her words and they way she said them really hit me in the chest with the weight of an anvil.

Have I really fucked things up that royally?

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) A/N, 14th April 10

Postby Rowedog » Thu Apr 22, 2010 7:46 am

Crisis averted! I’m not going to fail maths and therefore I don't have to do an extra semester while all my friends graduate (fingers crossed). The situation was only about fifteen percent my fault, so I’m so relieved that it’s over. I don’t often cry about my life (I cry for sad movies and things, but never about me) so I’ve really hated the whole situation.

By the way, some of this part really sucks, but I’m out of practice so bear with me.

Also, this may be the last explicit sex scene between Max and Liz. I only really put them in when they relate to the plot because gratuitous sex scenes are boring and repetitive. Right now I don’t see them needing any more, but that may change with the plot. Who knows? But yeah, don’t be hanging out for one or whatever.

Thank you for the fb and the bumps, and thank you to anyone who decides to stick with this story despite the huge time lapse between updates.

I’m in a great mood, so here we go.

Ellie
Steph
BB-
Ali, why do you like to cause me pain?

Dude, you wrote Crush. CRUSH! Where do you get off accusing me of causing you pain?
Keepsmiling7
Eve
Zanity
Leila
Sunrise102
Novy
Natalie36
Neve-
I wish we could get to see a little more of Isabel in therapy just to see how she's progressing. She's always seemed a little more adjusted than Max, but she has her own complex issues too.

Your wish: my command.
April-
Great update! Seems like you're starting to update pretty frequently!

Oh, look at that. You ruined it. You jinxed me. Everyone, it’s April’s fault this update is so late!
Zaneri1
Mary
Ju-
Ju Ju the magic poo! Welcome back! Big hugs!


Part Forty Four

’Weep for yourself, my man,
You'll never be what is in your heart
Weep little lion man,
You're not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rape yourself,
Take all the courage you have left
Wasted on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?

Tremble for yourself, my man,
You know that you have seen this all before
Tremble little lion man,
You'll never settle any of your score
Your grace is wasted in your face,
Your boldness stands alone among the wreck
Learn from your mother or else spend your days biting your own neck

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?’
Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons


***

Liz’s POV


“Guess what happened yesterday?” Maria says as we’re lounging around the front desk of the centre.

“You boned a hippo?” I venture, pleased with the smile that’s crossed Maria’s face. She’s been too sad too often lately.

“Don’t bring your Mom into this,” she says with a naughty grin.

“Ooh, burn...” I wince. “So what really happened yesterday? Manage to figure out how to use the centre’s computers?”

She shakes her head with a roll of her eyes and then brushes her hair back behind her ear. “As if that would ever happen. Rick Malburn asked me out, actually.”

“Ooh,” I squeal excitedly. I know I should be gunning for a Michael/Maria reunion, but at this point I’d settle for anything so long as she was happy. And Rick’s actually quite a sweet guy, so she could definitely do a lot worse.

“In front of Michael.”

“Ooh,” I wince. “That’s not so good. What happened then?”

“I turned Rick down because I don’t think I’m ready to date. And you then do you know what happened? Michael got all territorial and decided that he wants me back.”

She lets out a throaty grunt of disgust and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened after that.

“You said no, I’m assuming?”

“Of course. How’s this for a hypothetical? I take Michael back, I get all wrapped up in him again and then I do something else that he doesn’t agree with and then he dumps my ass. Do I look like I have the word stupid tattooed on my forehead? I am not going through this again. I couldn’t take it a second time.” There’s a look of grim determination on her face that has my hopes for the two of them completely dashed.

“So that’s it between the two of you? It’s completely over?” I ask, my heart cracking a little bit. There’s something about seeing your best friend devastated that just cripples you. My own sadness is one thing, but there’s an agonising helplessness when you see other people’s pain.

Her face softens from the previous anger and the dullness of heartbreak settles into her gaze. “I don’t know. I can’t imagine my life without him, but right now I don’t ever see myself trusting him ever again. His kneejerk reaction was to just dump me after he found a trait he didn’t like. Am I forever going to be tiptoeing around him, hiding bits of myself from him in case he doesn’t approve? I don’t want a relationship like that. I want to be able to implicitly trust that whoever I choose is going to be there through thick and thin, not just dismissing me whenever I do something he doesn’t approve of.”

“I get that,” I tell her with an understanding nod. I could try and convince her to go back with Michael and I know she’d be happier if she did, but she doesn’t want my advice. If she did, she’d ask for it. My job as best friend is just to provide support and some validation of what she’s feeling. It must be horrible for her to be torn two ways. She’s desperate to be with Michael, but she’s still so burnt and raw after their break up that it just seems impossible to her right now.

“I told him that if he and I were ever going to be together again, he had to prove himself to me. How is he ever going to be able to prove that I can trust him? And I feel guilty asking for it, but I don’t think I can go into a relationship with him without it.”

I shake my head and push a strand of hair back behind her ear. “Hey, don’t feel guilty. A relationship is built on trust and you have every reason to be wary of jumping back into something with him. I’d be kinda worried if you didn’t, actually. Maybe you guys need to slow it down and become friends again. Maybe rebuild some trust that way or something.”

She nods, taking my suggestion on board and reflecting on the situation she now find herself in.

“Did I ever tell you about the day my dad left?” she asks me after a long, silent pause.

“No.” She’s never even come close to talking about her dad. It was a strictly no go zone.

Her voice is monotone and flat and it scares me far worse than hysterics would have. “It was a pretty normal afternoon, Mom was cooking, Dad was reading the newspaper and I was playing with my dolls on the floor. It was a nice day, because Mom and Dad weren’t fighting like they usually were and it was just so happy and peaceful.” She lets out a long sigh and I wince, wondering what’s about to come. “Then, as I was playing with my dolls, I accidentally knocked over my grape soda and it spilled all over the carpet. Dad went apeshit and slapped me, Mom yelled at him not to put his hands on me, Dad told her to stay out of his goddamn business and an hour later, he was gone. He left. All because of some fucking grape soda.” She shakes her head and lets out a humourless snort. “To this day, I cannot drink grape soda.”

“Oh my god, Maria, that’s horrible!” I exclaim, aching for her. “You know it wasn’t your fault right?”

“If I hadn’t had spilled that grape soda...” she trails off.

“He’d have left another day. From what you just told me, it sounds like it had been building up to that point for a very long time. No one leaves their family over a spilt drink, that’s ludicrous. He was just a dick,” I forcefully interject. I can’t believe she’s been holding onto that for so long.

“Regardless of what you and Mom try and convince me, that’s what happened. And you know what I realised? Me telling Phillip about those payments? That was just another grape soda moment. My dad left and then so did Michael, it’s a pretty common theme for me. Is there something about me that drives people to abandon me? Seriously, is it me?”

Her voice cracks on that last word and she covers her face with her hands. I take her into my arms and she clings to me, burying her face into my shoulder as she tries vainly not to cry.

“No, of course not. It’s not you, it could never be you,” I whisper fiercely. I know that Michael probably didn’t know about Maria’s Dad when he broke up with her, but right now I want kick him in the jaw.

I rub her back in slow, soothing circles and then glance up, catching a glimpse of Michael’s devastated face from the hallway. Judging from the look of pain on his face, he probably heard every word.

***

Isabel’s POV


I don’t want to be here. I would rather be back in Meg’s house than here right in this moment. At least in Meg’s house I could continue to hide from my problems. But sitting here with Alex in David’s office, trying not to think about what’s to come is far, far worse than living through what happened to me.

I don’t want Alex to know. I feel dirty and ashamed enough as it is without having to deal with his disgust as well. And he’s going to be disgusted when he hears what happened in that house. He may have dealt really well with the general idea of my mother being a drug addicted hooker, but when he hears more details he’s never going to look at me the same way ever again.

“It’s nice to meet you, Alex, I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.”

Alex takes David’s offered hand and shakes it while I stare resolutely at the floor. I cross my legs and my right leg begins to shake uncontrollably, making my foot jiggle in the air. I feel physically ill. I can’t believe I actually agreed to this. What was I thinking?

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Alex replies with a smile in his voice as he sits back down in the chair next to mine. It gives me a physical ache in my chest to hear how happy he is that I’ve said good things about him. That’ll change swiftly once he realises what a big bag of fucked up I am.

“I suppose we should get down to it. Alex, how about you tell me your reasons for being here today.”

Alex’s fingers link through mine and he rests our joined hands on the arm of his chair. “I suppose I’d just like to understand Isabel better. I want to know where she’s coming from when she has an unexpected reaction to something, or why she’s upset. I want to be able to be there for her.”

“Isabel, why did you want Alex to come to this session with you?”

I swallow sharply, unexpected tears stinging my eyes. “Because he begged to come.”

David catches the tone in my voice and he frowns. “You don’t want him to be here?”

I can feel both of their stares weighing heavily on me and I answer carefully, knowing that Alex would take it personally if I said yes to David’s question. “I don’t want to be here.”

“Why is that, Isabel?”

I untangle my hand from Alex’s and cover my face with my hands, trying vainly to calm myself as tears force themselves out of my tear ducts. “I don’t want him to know about my childhood. I don’t want him to know how much of a fucking mess I am.”

“Do you think Alex would leave you if he knew about your childhood?”

Alex begins to protest, but David silences him. “Just a minute, Alex. Isabel?”

I hold my head in my hands and eventually manage to choke out, “Yes.”

“Now, Alex you clearly have differing view to Isabel’s.”

“Of course I do. I would never leave Isabel over things that happened in her past that she had no control over,” he states with a touch of indignation in his voice. “I’m not a shallow asshole. And frankly I’m getting a little offended by the insinuation that I’d turn tail and run at the first mention of something I didn’t necessarily like.”

“Well, we’ve certainly struck on some prominent issues quite early in the session,” David remarks. “Which is good. Knowing what your problems are in a relationship can often be half the battle. Often we don’t know what it is that’s aggravating us about our partners when it’s linked to a deeper issue and so we battle over the small, inconsequential things.”

Alex lets out a long sigh. “Look, I know she has issues about her past and it’s not me she doesn’t trust, but I can’t help but take offence when she just assumes that I’m only going to stick around so long as she keeps her past hidden from me. I know we’ve only been together for a short time but I’ve never given her any reason to doubt me before this.”

I can hear David tapping his pen thoughtfully, but I can’t look up. “Alex, why don’t you honestly tell us how you do feel about Isabel’s childhood. We’ve heard about how you don’t feel, but maybe it’d help Isabel if she heard you speak openly and honestly about how you do feel.”

“Ok. What I mostly feel about Isabel’s childhood is... sadness. She didn’t deserve what happened to her and it sucks so much that her mother was the one doing those things and that Isabel has to suffer for it. I also feel a lot of anger over what happened. I hate Isabel’s mother and find her repulsive, even though I’ve never met her. Anyone who could treat her children with such little consideration or care doesn’t deserve life in my opinion.” Alex pauses and takes a deep breath. “And that’s about it really. Sadness and anger, but not disgust. Isabel could never disgust me.”

“Isabel, after hearing that do you still believe that Alex is disgusted by your childhood?”

“I believe...” I take a deep shuddering breath and push the tears back. I’m so sick of crying. “That he’s trying to spare my feelings.”

I hear Alex grunt of disbelieving frustration. “You have got to be kidding me. You seriously think that I’m lying?”

“How can you not be disgusted?” I cry, trying to keep my composure.

“Isabel, not everyone thinks the same way that you do. You’ve got to stop pushing your own shame over the situation onto me. It’s not fair.”

I have no reply to that. I’ve never even considered it before.

Alex pauses for a long time before he speaks again. “Isabel, have you ever heard of that saying that you need to love yourself before you can let somebody love you?”

I nod dumbly. Here it comes, he’s breaking up with me. It’s what I’ve been waiting for all along. I only wish that there was no one else here to witness it.

“Isabel, you need to get past your childhood. You need to love yourself because right now you can’t see any reason as to why I’d want to be with you. You don’t see all the things I see when I look at you and as a result you can’t believe that I’d want to be with you. It’s so hard trying to convince you on a daily basis that you’re worthy of me. So I’m asking you to please, please work with David and try to get better.”

“Are you going to break up with me?” I ask, needing to know if my worst fears were coming true.

“I’ll stand by you, Isabel,” he promises so earnestly that I feel the tears welling up in my eyes again. “I will stand by you if you promise me that you are going to work at getting better. If you won’t do it for you, will you at least do it for me?”

I wipe the tears from my eyes and bring my eyes level to Alex’s for the first time that session. “Ok.”

***

Michael’s POV


I have come to a conclusion. Phillip Evans is a pretty cool guy.

I don’t think you can mistrust the intentions of a guy who acts like a child when he comes across a Harley Davidson.

We’ve been wandering around the motor show for the past couple of hours and Phillip has been filling the silence, which is fine by me. So long as I don’t have to talk, I’m fairly content with listening to him crap on about his plans for Diane’s birthday.

There’s a moment of uneasy silence between us as we walk past the motor oil stall. “Michael... there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about...”

“Yeah?” I ask warily.

“Yeah. I don’t want to interfere in something that’s none of my business, but I really think that Maria only had your best interest at heart when she told me about Meg.”

“I know,” I sigh, still so perturbed by what I heard from Maria yesterday that I can’t even get annoyed by Phillip’s intrusion into my business. He’s totally right.

Phillip pauses, looking a touch confused. “Oh. So why did you break up with her if-”

I interrupt him with a frustrated sigh. “I didn’t know it then... I just reacted. I never stopped to think about what would happen and now I’ve totally fucked everything up.”

To his credit, Phillip doesn’t even flinch at my use of profanity. “It’s never too late to fix things.”

“She doesn’t want anything to do with me,” I sigh morosely. “And I can’t blame her.”

Phillip’s brow furrows. “She told you that?”

I debate internally over whether or not to tell him the rest of the story, but in the end I figure, why not? It’s not like he doesn’t know that I’m a complete fuck up without some verbal confirmation from me. “She said that she needed to trust me again if we were ever going to have another shot and that she didn’t see how she ever could.”

Phillip bites his lip and then speaks after a moment’s contemplation. “Did you know that Diane and I once broke up?”

That throws me off guard. He and Diane seem like the perfect couple. “Really? Why?”

“Because I screwed up, Michael,” he answers simply.

“You did? You?”

“I’m not a perfect person, Michael. No one is. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s how you deal with those mistakes that defines you.”

“I just... I don’t know what to do.”

“You know what I did when Diane broke up with me?” He doesn’t wait for me to respond. “I didn’t give her a chance to stop thinking about me. I was constantly there, wherever she was. I turned up everywhere, making her laugh when all she wanted to do was hate me.”

“And it worked,” I murmur, feeling the first stirrings of hope since this whole awful situation came about. “You don’t think I should give her some space to get over it?”

“Space is code for ‘I want to forget about you’, Michael. You can’t let that happen. I’m not advocating that you hang around her and ask her out repetitively. All I’m suggesting is that you stay on her mind and then when she’s softened to you, you make your move.”

I nod and we both lapse into silence as we stroll past the stalls.

“Michael,” Phillip says suddenly as we peruse a stall filled with new automotive repair tools. “You repaired that bike of yours by yourself, didn’t you?”

I give a vague murmur of assent as I inspect a sprocket wrench. “Yeah, just from scrap parts and stuff.”

“I have this bike that’s been sitting in the garage for years. I’ve never actually gotten around to fixing it up like I thought I would. And besides that, I’ve never actually done anything with engines and I have no idea where to start. Do you think you could maybe take a look at it and teach me a thing or two while we’re at it?”

“Uh... yeah. Sure.” Phillip Evans wants me to teach him something. Wonders never cease.

***

Liz’s POV


A loud moan escapes my mouth as Max’s hand cups my right breast. We’re standing in my room, completely entangled in one another because we’ve finally got some time along together, as my parents aren’t around for a couple of hours. Max of course wants to take advantage of this time, but I’m still hesitant.

“Are you sure you wanna do this?” I ask, my voice squeaking a little bit.

“Yes,” he replies swiftly, not even faltering for a moment.

“Are you really sure?”

Max doesn’t even move his head away from my neck to answer. “Yes.”

I suck in a sharp breath as his hand firmly grasps my backside. “I mean, it’s a big step and I want to make sure you’re comfortable. Last time wasn’t planned, but right now you’ve got time to think about it and that could lead to another memory. Especially if you’re nervous. I just want to make sure that you’re feeling ok about this because I think we could be rushing into a little too quickly, even if your therapist thinks you’re ok. I mean I guess we won’t know until we try it but-”

“Liz,” he interrupts, grabbing my face tenderly between his large hands. “Would you shut up? You’re making me nervous.”

I huff and pout at him as he laughs at my indignation. “Well, I’m nervous, I don’t see why you shouldn’t be.”

He rolls his eyes at me. “Because I’m the one who could be adversely affected by being nervous. I need to be calm. You’re the one who’s allowed to spack out.”

“This is a bad idea,” I groan, throwing my hands up in the air.

“No it’s not,” he insistently mumbles against my neck. He’s alternating between biting and kissing and it’s very distracting.

“But what if – Max!” I shove him away from my neck and force him to look at me. “But what if we go through with this and you have another memory from your past and it’s so psychologically damaging that you end up never wanting to have sex ever again?!”

Max snorts and looks very amused. I glare at him. This isn’t funny. “I’m serious Max!”

“So am I, Liz. Believe me, there’s no way that could ever happen. I’m always going to want to have sex. It’s a trait that comes with my gender.”

“But what if-”

He claims my mouth with his. “Shhhhh,” he mumbles against my lips.

I manage to dodge his lips for a moment and weakly interject, “But what if it falls to crap?”

He closes his eyes and rests his forehead against mine. “Liz, I know you’re worried and I love you for it, but this is my risk to take. Now, for all that is holy, would you let me love you the way that I need to, please?”

I’m going to regret this. I know I am. “Ok.”

He returns to his task quickly and with enthusiasm, while I am summarily plagued with doubt. What if this all goes horribly, horribly wrong?

We stumble over to the bed and Max laughs when he trips over his own shoe that he’d discarded five minutes ago. A large portion of my anxiety evaporates when I hear him laugh. He’s always so serious, so it’s wonderful to hear him laugh and to see him so carefree. And I’ve missed being so close to him, so intimate. All I can really do is hope for the best, the rest is up to fate.

Unlike our last encounter, desperation isn’t the driving force behind our need. We take it much, much slower this time, slowly undressing one another and exploring the newly exposed skin. I hope the love and care we’re showing each other is enough to keep the memories at bay. Hopefully what we’re doing here is so far removed from his childhood that nothing could possibly spark up an unwanted recollection.

He reaches for the condom and the nerves kick back into action. I’m trying not to worry, but it’s so hard. Especially when it’s my actions that kick off these awful memories for him. He never had them before we started having sex, so I can’t help but feel responsible for them.

He hovers over me then pushes in. It’s been so long since he was inside me. Too long.

I sigh at the sweet relief of finally feeling of him inside me, but then the panic comes back swiftly. Something’s wrong. He’s not moving. At all.

His teeth are gritted, his brow is creased and his muscles are locked into position. This is so not good.

“Are you ok?” I manage to gasp out. He’s completely still and I’m worried that he’s just had another memory pop up. I knew this was a bad idea.

“Oh god, you feel amazing,” he says with a shudder.

I let out a relieved laugh and relax slightly. He’s not being still because he’s having a memory, he’s not moving because he’s trying to get himself back under control. “Think of baseball. I hear that helps.”

“Yeah, not really,” he spits out through gritted teeth.

“Rosie O’Donnell? Naked with a banana?”

Max’s brow uncreases and then he relaxes. “Ok, that worked.”

I smile happily up at him and he grins down at me. “I’m a miracle worker.”

“You’re amazing,” he breathes, just before starting a slow roll with his hips. The action just about sends my eyes rolling back into my skull.

“Oh, Max...”

He grins down at me. “I love the way you say my name. Do it again.”

“Make me,” I challenge, grinning when he begins to address this task with enthusiasm.

I’d forgotten how good this feels. The intimacy, the closeness, the mind numbing pleasure. It feels like we’re the only two people in the world and time doesn’t exist.

The bed squeaks in harmony with our moans and sighs. Nothing in the world should feel this good, but I’m so glad it does. It feels like we’ve been like this for hours, just us, together in a bed. Nothing could be better.

After what seems to be an eternity, Max’s movements speed up and I can feel the sweet pressure climbing inside my abdomen.

Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.

Oh god!

We lay together spent on the bed and it takes a full minute before I can venture a question I’m not sure I want an answer to.

“So... we’re all good?” I ask hopefully, buoyed by the look of peace on Max’s face. He’d be much more upset if he’d had a memory... wouldn’t he?

“We are,” he begins, rolling over on top of me and peppering me with kisses. “Fantastically... amazingly... one hundred percent... good.”

I squeal with laughter as his fingers dig into my sides and tickle me. During this completely blissful moment I realise something; this is what I’ve been waiting for the entire time I’ve been with Max. I’ve been waiting for him to get better and to let go of his past so that we could be so carefree like we’re supposed to be. Max is finally getting better and experiencing the adolescence he deserves. I couldn’t be more grateful.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 44, 22nd April 10

Postby Rowedog » Thu Jun 03, 2010 10:57 pm

Trulov
Ellie
BB-
I don’t think anyone would stoop to using Tia to get M/M back together. It’d be a very unfair weapon to use. You can’t repel cute of that magnitude.
Keepsmiling7
Ju-
BTW, you write the funniest, most realistic sex scenes I've ever read, you know that?

Aww, that’s a very nice compliment!
Novy
Ginger
Sunrise102
Eve
April-
I think it's funny how the response over here is generally one of loving all the characters, whereas the response to my fic is hating all of them. That's okay, though. That's how it's supposed to be.

I just can’t hack the pressure of writing hateable characters. I’m too much of a wuss. You're much braver than me.
Drogyn
Neve
Zaneri1
Scorpio6
Clue-
Yeah, I remember you! How are you?
Destiny
Spray-
SPRAY! *tackles*
I can’t believe that you’re actually here! How are you doing? Also, I feel that I should ask on behalf of your readers, does this re-emergence into RF mean some updating? I think we could all get behind that.
Steph- I’m so glad to hear that that you’re better!
Lou- Welcome and thanks! Sorry to have disrupted your sleep... it was done unintentionally on my part.
(puts on Oliver voice)
Please, sir, may I have some more? (and yes, I know you aren't a sir)
This made me laugh. And yes, you can have some more.

Part Forty Five

'Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take, I'll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay, I'll be watching you
Oh can't you see you belong to me?
How my poor heart aches with every step you take
Every move you make and every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake, I'll be watching you
Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace
I dream at night
I can only see your face
I look around but it's you I can't replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please'
Every Breath You Take by The Police


***

Max’s POV


“Hey man,” I greet as Michael reaches the living room, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He sits next to me on the couch and it takes him a moment to wake up enough to answer me.

“’Lo,” he grunts. “Time is it?”

“It’s 11:30.”

“In the morning?” Michael asks hopefully. He and Dad were out late the night before at the motor show, so Mom put us all under strict instructions not to disturb him.

“Yeah. Don’t worry, you didn’t sleep for the entire day, just most of the morning.”

“Cool,” he nods, looking at the bowl in my hands. “Watcha got there?”

“Popcorn,” I tell him, offering him the bowl.

He grabs a handful and stuffs it in his mouth, looking more alert by this point. “What are we watching?”

I shrug. “I dunno, some Jet Li film. Something about multiple universes and killing alternate versions of yourself.”

“Weird. What have you got on for the rest of the day?”

A smile automatically graces my face when I think of the rest of my day. “Gonna go see Liz in the afternoon. She’s working the morning shift at the Crashdown, but then she’s free.”

Michael takes another handful of popcorn and says over his mouthful, “Shouldn’t you be over there right now, mooning over her as she pours coffee?”

I laugh at how accurate his description is. “I would, but I’ve been banned from there while she’s working. Apparently I “distract” her.”

“Well, that’s better than her pretending you don’t exist,” he mumbles dolefully. My heart goes out to him. A brief conversation with Liz let me know that Maria shot down his attempt at getting back together with her. And that has to suck.

“How are things going with Maria?” I ask tentatively after a moment of silence. I’m not sure that this intrusion into Michael’s private affairs will be welcome, but I’d like him to know that I care about his problems.

He lets out a long melancholic sigh, hesitates for a second then just jumps right into it. “I dunno. I think I’ve really fucked things up this time.”

“You’re going to keep trying though, right?”

“What else can I do, Max? If this break up has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t live without her. Everything just sucks when I’m not with her.”

“She’ll come around,” I tell him, sounding much more confident than I feel.

“So, how was your date with Liz the other day? I forgot to ask you,” Michael asks, a very obvious change of the subject.

“Yeah, great,” I enthuse with a uncontrollable grin crossing my face.

“Dude, you could not be more obvious about the fact that you got laid. You might want to work on that for when you see her parents next,” he advises me, a smug smile on his face.

I stiffen, feeling horrified at the thought. “It’s that obvious?”

He laughs at me and nods his head slowly. “Yes, and for the record; us sexless beings don’t appreciate being reminded that everyone else is getting some but us.”

His playful teasing and an intense desire to get to know Michael better gets me to open up more than I would in other circumstances. “I don’t think you should be too envious. I mean, it was nearly over before it began.”

He raises an eyebrow at me. “What do you mean?”

“We haven’t had sex in a while and...”

“You almost blew your load at first contact,” Michael guesses, taking another handful of popcorn and stuffing it into his mouth.

I let out a startled bark of laughter and shake my head. “Something like that. It took a while for me to get back under control.”

“Next time just think about Diane.”

“Excuse me?!” I yelp, unable to compute what he’s telling me to do.

“Just think about your Mom and that should really calm you down,” he repeats. Ok, so he did just say what I think he said.

I shake my head in disbelief and disgust. “I want to settle things down, not kill my boner completely.”

He laughs wickedly and infectiously, I can’t help but to laugh with him. “Haha, boner kill. We should market that shit. Got an awkward boner? Think of your Mom. Effective in 99.9% of cases.”

“Who’s the 0.1%?” I ask with curiosity.

“People named Oedipus, or dudes from the South,” he informs me.

I let out a snort and grin at him. “Not that we’re stereotyping or anything...”

“Course not,” he replies, mirroring my grin.

It’s in that moment, that exact moment, that I feel like I have a brother, rather than just know it. Us hanging out, talking shit and being comfortable in each other’s company is what I’ve been waiting for. And now that it’s here it’s even better than I imagined it would be.

***

Maria’s POV


These desk drawers are disgusting. I mean, seriously, when was the last time someone cleaned out this thing? Hopefully it’ll take all of my shift at the centre to clean this thing out, that way I can avoid Michael. So long as he stays in the art room, that is.

I think back to a time when I would look forward to seeing him and the ache in my chest intensifies with every heart beat. God I miss him. The way he’d smile at me, the way he kissed me, the way he told me he loved me...

“Hey.”

I startle out of my daydream and press a hand to my heart. “Are you trying to kill me?”

Michael seemingly muses upon the question for a moment as he hops up onto the bench in front of me. I take a step back. “No. That would thoroughly get in the way of me taking you to the Blitz Music Festival.”

He flashes two tickets at me and I give him a pointed look. “Michael...”

He sends me a beguiling smile that makes my heart beat faster. “Come on, you know you want to go.”

“I do want to go, but one, you can’t afford those tickets and two, I’m not ready to date you just yet.”

He jumps off the bench and comes to stand in front of me. “First off, I have cash galore now that I’m sponging off the Evans’.”

“Michael,” I chastise, watching him warily as he begins to circle me like I’m his prey or something. “You’re not sponging off of anyone. You’re just experiencing what life is like with a family and receiving some well deserved help.”

“And secondly...” he ignores me and moves in closer behind me, his breath hitting my neck. “I miss you.”

My eyes close involuntarily as he presses a kiss to my bare shoulder, before they snap back open and I practically leap away, whirling around to face him. “You can’t do that.”

“Do what?” he asks innocently, looking for all the world like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

“You can’t just schmooze your way back into my good graces. I told you that I needed time.”

***

Michael’s POV


“It’s just a concert, Maria,” I reply idly, scraping the edge of my tickets along my left palm. I know that Phillip told me not to ask her out all the time, but I think once a week isn’t too excessive. That way I’ll stay in her mind, not just as a friend, but as someone who is persistent and consistent. Here’s hoping it works.

She sends me a chilly glare. “Good, then you won’t mind taking someone else. Max would probably love to go. You should ask him.”

“I bought one for you,” I reply simply.

“And I don’t want it,” she says adamantly.

“It’s in a month’s time, Maria. Besides, how am I supposed to convince you that you can trust me if we don’t spend any time together?”

I’ve got her there, she’s floundering and she knows it. “We do spend time together. At work.”

I shake my head. “Not the same thing.”

“Michael, you’re really annoying. You know that?”

“I’m aware.”

“Listen, I have to work, so you should probably get back to work too,” she not-so-subtly suggests.

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to bring this up, but there’s no way to segue into this topic naturally, so I’m just going to do it. I need to talk to her about it. I need to say something. “You know the difference between me and your Dad?”

“What do you know about my father?” she hisses, alerting me to the fact that I am treading in very dangerous territory right now.

“I know that he was a fucking jerk who made you feel like it was your fault that he couldn’t love anyone but himself. I know that you blame yourself for the way he left, even though it was his overreaction that caused him to leave.”

“You heard that?” she demands angrily. “God, you fucking eavesdropper. I should have known that-”

She cuts off abruptly as I grasp her shoulders firmly and step into her personal space. “The difference between your father and me, is that I’m never going to quit. You run to the top of Mount Everest, I’ll be there to hand you a flask of water and an oxygen tank. So you can keep on pushing me away, test me as much as you like, Maria, I don’t care. Because I’m going to keep coming back and one day – hopefully soon – you’re going to accept that.”

I release her shoulders from my grip and then turn on my heel and walk away whistling while she’s struck dumb, unable to formulate anything resembling a sentence. I try not to smile too much, but there is something so satisfying about having the last word with Maria.

***

Alex’s POV


“When I get better, Mom’s totally taking me to Disneyland and we’re going to go on all the rides and I’m going to make her eat a whole bunch of corndogs before space mountain and see how long it takes her to puke.”

I laugh unreservedly at this twelve year old boy’s Machiavellian scheme. “You are evil, dude.”

“I give her ten seconds,” he tells me, a wicked glint in his eye. He then reaches up and scratches at his head, the bandana apparently causing some discomfort against his bald head.

“Itchy?” I ask, handing him his glass of water.

“Yeah,” he says with a scowl, taking a sip and setting it down on his nightstand. “You think they’d make them out of silk or something. This cotton is as itchy as hell.”

“Jonathon...” his mother says as she walks back into the room from the bathroom, a warning tone in her voice. “Don’t swear.”

“Hell isn’t a swear. Shit and dick are swears.”

I snort loudly and try not to laugh. I can see his mother, Helen, trying to do the same.

She finally manages to get her composure back and she levels a stare at him that would freeze my blood had she directed it at me. “Jonathon Nathaniel Purcell, don’t use that language or I’ll take you over my knee. You’re not too big.”

He apparently is used to the stare because he just shrugs it off. “I was just proving my point.”

“Well don’t.”

“Look at her,” he sighs with a saddened shake of his head, knowing as well as I do that her threat of spanking is an empty threat. She’s probably never raised a hand to him in her life. “Threatening to beat the poor kid with cancer. How does she live with herself?”

I swallow back my laughter and watch their interaction with interest. Helen’s a single parent and Jonathon is her world. It’s been just the two of them since he was born and his diagnosis absolutely gutted her. She’s been so strong throughout Jonathon’s treatment for leukaemia, but you can see that it’s wearing on her. I suppose it must help her that she’s got such an awesome kid. Nothing gets him down, not even the constant vomiting or prolonged hospital stays. He just shrugs and says, “It beats school.”

I’d never tell him this because of his already overinflated ego, but recently he’s become one of the main things I look forward to when I volunteer at the hospital.

“The drama never ends when Johnny’s around,” she says with a roll of her eyes.

A knock at the door interrupts whatever Johnny was going to say and Isabel enters. Johnny gives her an appraising look up and down and seemingly likes what he sees.

“Hey there,” he drawls out flirtatiously with a wink. “How you doing?”

Isabel gives me a bemused look, but overlooks the weirdness of being flirted with by a twelve year old boy. She’s heard me talk about Johnny before, so it’s not too surprising for her. Helen just shakes her head sadly in resigned embarrassment.

“Fine thank you. You must be Johnny. I’m Isabel,” she replies, then turns to me. “Alex, it’s nearly lunchtime, but I’ve got a few more things to do before then. Meet you in the cafeteria at one?”

I send her an apologetic smile. “Johnny’s got his chemo scheduled for just a bit after that and I promised I’d stay until then.”

“Ok then. Want me to grab you a plate?”

“Yeah, that’d be great.”

“Well, see you soon then. Nice meeting you, Johnny.”

“Come back anytime,” he says, still trying to be the world’s first twelve year old playa. Gotta love his hopefulness though.

“Yeah, ok,” she replies with a laugh, lightly brushing her fingers over the back of my neck before she leaves. I shiver from the small contact, a smile crossing my face until I see Johnny’s eyes on me.

“What?”

“Dude, she’s into you,” he says in an awed whisper.

“I should hope so, she’s my girlfriend.”

His mouth drops open, his eyes practically bug out of his skull and he lets out a prolonged, “Whoa!”

I wait for his amazement to subside, but I’m not offended by his surprise. Isabel and I are quite the oddly matched pair, but instead of being insecure about it, I’ve lately taken to being proud. She’s out of my league, but I still got her, so what does that say about me?

Besides, Isabel’s got enough insecurity for the both of us. I think I’ll take up the helm of the stable, secure one in this relationship. It’s a nice change after being with Leanna. It’s wonderful knowing with absolute certainty that Isabel cares about me, I just wish she could feel the same.

“Dude! Nice job!” Jonathon holds up his hand for a high five and I indulge him. It is pretty high five worthy.

He grins at me and shakes his head in disbelief. “Dude, you gotta tell me your secrets!”

I shrug, a little unsure of how I managed to attract her attention. “I dunno, she says she likes me because I’m a nice guy. That’s what she was looking for and I guess I fit that bill for her.”

Helen smiles warmly at me. “Alex, having got to know you over the past couple of months, I’d say she’s the lucky one in that relationship.”

Johnny scoffs, and sends his mother a disbelieving stare. “No way, mom! Have you seen her bazoomas? They’re out to here!”

I lightly slap Johnny’s shoulder as a warning when he extends his arms out as far as they can reach. “Hey, don’t talk about her that way. She’s not just a pair of breasts. She’s sweet, caring and a wonderful person and that’s why I’m dating her. Physical attractiveness can only go so far. It’s the person behind the beauty that matters.”

“Daww, Awex is in wuv!” Johnny simpers, earning an eye roll from me.

“That’s right, you little punk,” I tell him with an affectionate chuckle, “and when you get well and we get out on the basketball court you’ll pay for that comment.”

He shrugs off my comment and puffs out his scrawny chest. “You may have the advantage of height, but I have speed on my side. I’m a juggernaut, baby.”

“Do you even know what a juggernaut is?” I ask him.

He shakes his head unconcernedly. “No, but it sounds fast.”

I laugh unreservedly at him and marvel at his carefree attitude. It really puts everything else into perspective, seeing him battle cancer so cheerfully. All of my problems seem so insignificant.

***

Isabel’s POV


“Hey there,” greets Maria as I wander into the centre. “You’re early.”

“I know. It didn’t take as long to walk from the hospital to the centre as I thought it would. Is it cool if I just hang around here till you finish?”

“Please,” she begs. “It’ll hopefully keep Michael away from me.”

“He’s nothing if not persistent,” I reply lightly, not wanting to get involved in their personal dramas. Especially considering I’m secretly on Michael’s side. I want them back together and if he’s the one supporting that, then I’m on his side. Not that I don’t get where Maria’s coming from, but I just want her to be happy and I want Michael to be happy and I think that that’ll happen once they’re back together.

“Persistent like herpes,” she grumbles.

Time to change the subject, I think. “Where’s Liz?”

“She and Max are off doing God knows what, while I’m stuck here at work dealing with Mr Smug.”

Ok... that change of topic didn’t work. “He’s smug now?”

“He just... ugh. He found out something that he shouldn’t have, brought it up and made me question what I’m doing. I don’t need confusion right now. I really don’t. But anyway, I really, really need this girl’s night so I can take my mind off of what’s going on.” She ends this speech with a headdesk to rival all headdesks. She really isn’t coping well with her break up from Michael.

“We’ll try our darndest. So is Liz meeting us at your place?”

Maria rolls her eyes. “Yeah, once she gets done having wild monkey sex with Max.”

“Eww.” Christ, is it too much to ask that I never ever hear my brother’s name in the same sentence as the word sex?

“Sorry, I forgot. You probably don’t want to hear things like that. I’m just... annoyed at the moment.”

I let out a snort. “Really? I couldn’t tell.”

“I just... I have no idea what to do.” She makes a grab for my hand and stares up at me with wide, pleading eyes. “Could you tell me what to do? Please? I want someone to make my decisions for me. Clearly I’m not very good at it.”

I send her a pointed look. “You want me to give you advice on your love life?”

“You’re not that bad. You’ve got Alex, don’t you?”

I concede the point. “Well yeah... but you’re not going to like my advice. I’d just tell you to give in to Michael and be with him again, like we all know you want to.”

She releases my hand and sits back in her chair with a pout. “You’re right. I didn’t like your advice.”

“Told you. How long have you got until you’re done?”

She sneaks a look at the clock. “Two minutes. Then it’s you, me, Liz and some high quality, late 90’s, teen drama movies. And some John Hughes just for kicks.”

“Ok,” I agree. “But not Pretty In Pink. I just can’t handle Molly Ringwald’s prom dress at the end there. Actually, I can’t handle her fashion the entire movie. She looks like a bag lady. And a crazy one at that.”

Maria nods vehemently. “Ugh, I’m so with you on that one, it’s totally atrocious. And while I like Blane as a character, his face just makes me go blurgh.”

“What are we talking about?” Michael asks as he appears from around the corner. Maria automatically stiffens, which I note with some amusement.

“Pretty In Pink,” I answer, seeing as Maria’s fallen silent. “We’re going to be watching a bunch of girly movies tonight.”

“You should watch Braveheart. Now that’s a movie worth watching,” he tells us, his eyes never leaving Maria’s face.

“No one asked for your opinion,” Maria snaps, gathering up her things. “Isabel, you ready to go?”

“Yep,” I reply lightly. “See you at home, Michael.”

“Bye,” he calls out as we head off. I glance back once and feel my heart twist in my chest at the sight of him standing alone by the empty front desk, watching Maria walk away from him.

I hope this mess between them gets fixed. And soon.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 45, 4th June 10

Postby Rowedog » Sat Jul 31, 2010 9:18 am

Sorry! I just had placement. I took full control of a classroom of 20 five-year-olds for a couple of weeks. I had to do full lesson plans for each lesson I took, plus one of them gave me their cold. So I feel like poo and I’m really tired. Anyway, hope you enjoy.

Novy
Ellie-
Love that he's still persistent with Maria, although talking about her father? Not cool. It seem to set her back just when it looked like she would give an inch, at least to me. I could have misread that.

:lol: You did. Prior to talking about her father, Maria was really adamant about not wanting him back, afterwards she was confused. Michael made some progress with her, he didn’t regress. You kinda had it backwards.
Ginger
BB-
He did apologise, don’t worry.
Instead of being smug and pressuring her maybe he could try being contrite for a while.

If he loved her less, maybe. Right now he just wants her back, and he’ll achieve that by any means necessary (besides Tia, that’s just low). Michael does feel bad for his part in the break up, but that’s not going to stop him from going after her. And in a way, she kind of needs that. She needs to know that he wants her, that he need hers. The reassurance is a kind of balm to her.
Lou-
(and this is my brain trying to guess what's going to happen, which I know is naughty)

Is it? In that case I’m the naughtiest of them all. You can feel free to speculate as much as possible, I really don’t mind. If I did, I’d be a hypocrite.
Drogyn- Don’t feel pressured to get on a side with the M/M debacle, it’s not a black and white issue.
Sunrise102-
just don't turn into stalker Michael. not good.

:lol: That hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Eve
Natalie36
Zaneri1
Neve-
just like Isabel and Max have relationship issues, Michael does too and I wish that Maria could follow the example of her friends and work through them with him.

I think the main difference between Liz/Alex and Maria’s situation is that they don’t have abandonment issues from their childhood and those issues weren’t compounded when their significant others dumped them over something they did. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the situations seeing as they’re both significantly different. Yes, Michael has issues, but then so does Maria. I also don’t think it’s fair to discount Maria’s issues just because Michael’s are more prominent and in your face. She’s allowed to feel what she feels, and right now she doesn’t feel like she can trust Michael.

If the situation had occurred differently, if he hadn’t dumped her and had instead just chucked a tantrum and ignored her for a few days then we wouldn’t have had this problem at all. But he didn’t, he broke up with her. He abandoned her. He repeated the message that the most important male figure in her life gave her when he packed up and left: that she’s not enough for them to stay.
I don't think it's going to be the last time that Michael messes up, is Maria going to react this way every time he does?

It’s funny, that’s what Maria needs to know before she can take him back. If she thought that Michael was just going to break up with her every time she made a mistake, why would she want to go back to him? What would submit herself to such psychological and emotional torture?

It’s like that quote from Pride and Prejudice “I could easily forgive him his pride if he had not wounded mine.” It’s sorta the same thing, Maria could have (and has done, in the past) dealt with his problems, had he not hit on one of her own. I actually think it’s kinda sad that the thing that helped Maria really relate to Michael is the thing that’s keeping them apart now.

It’s funny. I defended Michael up above with BB, only to come down here and defend Maria with you. Can’t we all just be team candy and want them back together? :lol:
Ju-
I just quoted you on Facebook, I think you'd like to know.

Hahaha! You did too, you nut.
Cardinal- :lol: I should really come with a warning: This author updates on a monthly (or so) basis and is not consistent.
April
Destinyc
Phyco352-
Welcome! Glad you're enjoying it!

Part Forty Six

‘Something is said, it sits in my head
It's been there too long, it's killing me slow
It's rolling around, it's pushing me down
It's keeping the good part of me closed

Can't you see that when I find you, I'll find me

Oh I need you to know today I'll wait for you always
Oh I need you to know today I'll wait for you always

My only weakness, is knowing your secrets
And holding them close, and holding them tight
I know the way to silently make you
Smile with my eyes, when you're trying to fight’
When You Find Me by Joshua Radin


***

Maria’s POV


“Mawia!”

I stumble sideways as something with the force of a large bowling ball collides with my leg and latches on.

“Hey Tia,” I greet with a big smile as I pick her up. She’s so adorably enthusiastic, it’s contagious. “Whatcha doing here, pumpkin?”

“Mitael said I tould tome see you today,” she tells me, an enormous grin on her face. I ignore Michael as he makes his way over to the front desk and leans against it. It’s easier when I pretend he’s not there.

I can’t help but return Tia’s grin. “Well, aren’t I lucky?”

“I’m weally happy dat you and Mitael are fwiends again,” she tells me, shocking me a little bit. I didn’t know that Michael had told her that he no longer considers me the devil. It’s a bit presumptuous to be honest, seeing as I’m still mad as hell at him.

“That’s right,” Michael tells her with a wink that’s more directed at me than at Tia. I try my best to scowl at him, but it’s hard to be mad at that face, particularly when it’s lit up like that.

“Now you tan get married!” she exclaims with joy.

“Married,” I repeat dumbly, my mouth hanging open. I avoid looking at Michael and try to formulate an appropriate response.

“And hab a fambily!” she cries enthusiastically, completely unaware of the look of horror on my face.

Michael drops down in front of her and I breathe a sigh of relief. He’s going to break it to her gently and relieve me of the duty.

“One day, sweetheart,” he tells her gently, and then sends me a smirk as he rises up from his knee.

My eyes practically bug out of my head and I can’t seem to formulate an adequate response. I settle for ignoring him and pretending he’s not there. Hopefully that’ll help.

Time to change the subject. “So, what are you doing here besides seeing me?”

“I tame to paint!” she tells me enthusiastically, bopping around on the spot. “Mitael’s taking a cwass today and I get to do it too.”

“Wow, aren’t you lucky?” I take a glance at the clock. “Looks like you better get going, or you and Michael will be late.”

She squeals in fear, rushes over to Michael and begins pulling on his pant leg in the direction of the classroom. “Tuickly, Mitael! We’re dunna be wate!”

Michael rolls his eyes at her as he takes her hand and lets himself get dragged away. but not without sending me a wink when he catches me watching him. Stupid jerk.

I watch them disappear around the corner and let the smile I’d been forcing slip from my lips. It’s so hard to keep up pretences when everyone’s around and pretend that I’m fine when I’m not.

It’s been growing steadily, this emptiness inside of me. Ever since Michael broke up with me it’s been getting worse. And I thought I would feel better now that I know that Michael wants me back, but the damage has already been done. For me love and trust are the two sides of the same coin. I couldn’t have one without the other. Before I had felt so secure in my relationship and it had really taken one misstep from me and I was summarily booted from his life. He broke up with me. He left me.

I just don’t see us ever being together like we were before. Every scenario in my head ends with him leaving me and I know that if I took him back and he abandoned me again I’d feel even worse than I would now. I don’t know how I’d survive that, I really don’t. It’s getting harder and harder to deal with as the days go on.

The only really bright light in my life right now is Tia. It’s much easier to feel happy when she’s around.

***

Michael’s POV


“You seen Maria?” I ask one of the other employees as they wander down the hall towards me.

After a quick shake of their head I’m left wondering where she went. She’s meant to be working for the entire day and I can’t find her anywhere. Amy’s taken Tia out for a milkshake to thank her for the painting she did of her, so I have half an hour in which to spend some intense Make-Maria-Want-Me-Again mission time.

Which doesn’t actually work if she’s not around for me to talk to.

I glance at the store room and have a quick debate with myself, but in the end decide that it’s better to leave no stone unturned, even though she’s got no reason to go in there.

I flick on the light and am startled at the sight of Maria sitting on the floor, with her back against the supply cupboards.

She’s sitting in the store room, in the dark, by herself. Something is really not right with this picture.

“Maria?”

She blinks owlishly, turning to look at me. “Oh, hey.”

“What are you doing?”

She shrugs. “Just thinking.”

I raise one eyebrow at her. “In the dark?”

“Yep. Can you close the door please?”

“Ok,” I oblige with her request and she sends a glare my way.

“Behind you.”

“It is behind me,” I point out, jabbing my thumb over my shoulder in the direction of the door, purposefully misunderstanding her.

“Don’t be obtuse, Michael,” she sighs, looking away from me.

I squat down and take a seat on the floor next to her. “So, what’s so fun about sitting in the dark in the storage room?”

“Maybe I just wanted some alone time,” she replies dully, the usual bite in her tone that has recently been used whenever talking to me is gone. Now she just sounds... tired.

“Why?”

“Do I need a reason?” she grunts, getting up from the floor and heading towards the door.

“Maria wait,” I plead as I scramble to stand up. I stumble to my feet and grasp her hand and she turns with a resigned sigh.

“What?”

“Why were you sitting alone in the dark?” I search her face for an answer, but all I get is a blank, unimpressed stare. Where’s my Maria gone? Where’s the fire and the life?

“I just wanted to think, ok?” she sighs, staring off to my left. She’s avoiding looking at me now. God this is a fucking mess.

I search her face for any sign of animation or emotion and still there’s nothing. It’s terrifying me. “Maria, are you ok?”

Her eyes snap to mine and relief floods back as I see fury written plainly across her face.

“Am I ok? Am I fucking ok?! No, I’m not fucking ok, Michael! You broke up with me! You left me over something so completely fucking petty and stupid that anyone with half a fucking brain could see that you were acting like a fucking child. You treated me like dirt after we broke up, then ignored me, then you decide that you need me back so desperately that you can’t leave me the fuck alone when I need a ten minute break. You’re so hot and cold! This entire relationship has always been on your terms, “I’ll tell you about my sister when I’m ready, I’ll tell Phillip about Meg when I’m ready, I’ll break up with you and want you back whenever the hell I want, regardless of how you feel”. Well, you know what? Fuck you and fuck your terms. I’m so fucking sick of this!”

She shoves at me to move me aside so that she can dramatically storm out like she wants to, but I’m not budging. I grab her by the shoulder and hold her in place, receiving a few hits to the chest for my troubles.

“Fuck you! Let me go!”

“Not until we’ve talked,” I reply calmly. I need to keep my cool or this will just escalate into a full blown argument and I’ll lose any ground that I’ve made with her. Although, given her speech just now, I can’t say with any certainty that I’ve made much at all.

“I’m sick of talking to you,” she spits out, her chest heaving. I grab her wrist to stop her from hitting me and haul her in closer to me.

“Well I’m sick of being hit by you, so let’s call it even shall we?” I bite out, dangerously close to losing my temper.

“Bite me,” she hisses.

“Gladly,” I reply, my last thread of self control snapping. I hook my hand behind her head and kiss her roughly, weeks of frustration pouring into this one kiss. To my surprise she meets me with equal ferocity. Our lips and tongue battling for supremacy as my hands grip her roughly.

We continue on like this with no signs of stopping. It takes me a while to muster the self control to pull away from the haven of her mouth, to gasp out, “Maria, we need to-”

“No talking,” she gasps, gripping the back of my neck and pulling me back to her. I don’t have enough self control to argue with her. I’ve been away from her for far, far too long.

My lips skim my way over her throat as my hands grasp at any flesh they can find. I cup her butt and lift her onto the bench, sending a pot of dirty paintbrushes clattering to the floor. Neither of us pay it any attention.

I rip open her dress, sending buttons scattering and bouncing across the cement floor and I can’t bring myself to care that I’ve just ruined it. It’s been too long. Far, far too long.

I need to get closer than this. She seems to have read my mind, her hand already reaching for my belt buckle. She scrambles at it, then finally manages to pull it open. She then makes quick work of my jeans as they soon pool around my ankles.

I run my hand up her leg and push aside her panties and am amazed to find her already wet and ready for me.

“Hurry up,” she hisses, pulling my body between her legs. I don’t need much more invitation than that. I surge up into her, letting out a guttural cry of relief and satisfaction. I’ve finally come home where I belong.

Maria wriggles impatiently and I take that as my cue to get on with it. I rapidly thrust in and out, not being able to slow down or be gentle with her. There’s too much fire, passion and repressed emotion between us for me to take it slow. I need her now.

Our grunts and heavy breathing fills the room as I urgently make love to her as if it will erase all the heartache we’ve both endured. I guess I’m vainly hoping that it will.

I feel her shudder and clamp around me, a sharp cry falling from her lips and that’s all I need to follow her over the edge.

“Oh god,” she moans breathlessly, her head coming to rest against my collar bone.

I don’t say anything, I merely collapse my head onto her neck and hold her tightly to me.

“Hi,” she says softly, sounding ridiculous as I’m still embedded within her.

“Hi,” I reply, somewhat redundantly. I glance down and horror fills me. “Fuck. Condom.”

She shrugs, her head still on my shoulder. “I’m on the pill.”

My brow furrows in confusion. “Since when?”

“Since we first started dating. Mom insisted on it. So we should be fine unless you have communicable diseases,” she informs me a bit tersely, obviously uncomfortable at the idea of me being with another woman. It’s nice to hear actually. A bit of jealousy makes me feel wanted.

“I’ve only ever been with you, Maria,” I tell her softly, noting that her shoulders relax a little bit at that admission. I guess she thought I’d be slutting my way across town without her tying me down. The insinuation hurts, but I guess I’ve broken a lot of her faith in me.

We lapse back into silence and I take the opportunity to reacquaint myself with her body. I let my hands wander up and down her back, rub her legs softly and smooth down her thoroughly messed up hair.

“I’m tired, Michael,” she murmurs, her voice muffled by my body.

I rub soothing circles on her back. “I’ll take you home, I’ll put you to bed.”

She shakes her head. “No I’m not tired tired. I’m just tired of fighting you off. I’m tired of missing you. I’m tired of being alone. I don’t wanna be alone.”

“You’re not alone. You’re never alone.”

She brings her head up from my shoulder and stares me dead in the eye conveying her sincerity. “You can’t leave me again, Michael. I won’t survive it a second time.”

I don’t let my eyes leave hers as I answer. “I won’t leave you, Maria.”

“How can I believe you?” She’s not trying to stick the knife in with that question, I can tell that she actually wants an answer.

“Do you think you were the only one who suffered while we were apart? I went through it too, Maria. It was awful and it’s something I never want to go through again.”

“Well, what if I do something that you don’t agree with? How do I know that you’re not going to react the same way again?”

I shrug. “I suppose you can’t know it, but I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you that I’d rather go and live with Meg than ever have to be without you again.”

She laughs softly then her eyes drop down to the ground, avoiding mine.

“I want you to get help, Michael.”

“What?”

She looks me dead in the eye and I can see that she’s completely serious about it.

“I want you to go see a therapist. If I’m going to commit myself in a relationship with you, then I need to know that you’re working on your trust problems.”

“No,” I state determinedly, terrified at the idea of opening up to a complete stranger. “There is no way I’m going to see some goddamn shrink. It’d be pointless. A total waste of time.”

“Typical,” she sighs, rolling her eyes at me as she grabs a smock from nearby and buttons it over her somewhat demolished dress. “Just ignore the problems and hope they go away. That’s your style, isn’t it Michael? I don’t know why I thought you could possibly have changed. I’m such an idiot.”

I blink in astonishment at her tone. She’s never spoken to me or looked at me that way before. It’s like she’s expecting the worst from me now. And I can’t help but feel that this is my fault. That by breaking up with her she’s now defending her heart by just assuming the worst about me so that she doesn’t get disappointed.

“Maria-” I begin, only to be cut off again.

“I’m not angry at you, Michael,” she sighs. “I’m angry at myself. I went through all that pain and I knew that we ever got back together that you’d do it again. So what do I do? I just throw myself back into it headfirst and almost instantly get cut down again.” She sucks in a large breath and I can feel the panic rise up in me again. But this time it’s not at the idea of going to therapy, it’s at the idea of losing her again after I just got her back. And if I thought the last wave of panic was bad, this one’s a tsunami. She shakes her head angrily and begins to berate herself again. “I’m such a moron, I can’t believe I thought that-”

I can’t take anymore. I clasp her head between my hands and kiss her with enough force and desperation to shut her up. Once I feel the fight and tension go out of her, I soften the kiss and tenderly stroke her cheek with my thumb before I pull away.

“I’ll do it,” I murmur, kissing her once more. “Just shut up.”

“You will?” she asks tentatively, as if she’s not quite sure that I’m telling the truth.

“I said I would.” And I will. Even though the very thought fills me with complete and unabridged terror, I’ll do it. If it’s a choice between losing Maria and going to see a shrink, then I’ll take the option that doesn’t leave me heartbroken and empty.

“Ok then,” she murmurs. She’s softened and I take the opportunity to move in closer and wrap my arms around her. Much to my delight she returns the favour, her head coming to rest in the crook of my neck.

“If I asked you to go see a therapist would you go see one?” I ask, trying to keep the sulkiness out of my voice. Just because I’m thrilled to have Maria back does not mean that I’m any happier about going to see a therapist.

“Yes,” she answers, not lifting her head from my shoulder.

I try to scowl, but it’s hard when my entire being finally feels at peace again.

***

Max’s POV


“This,” Michael informs us, “is a torque wrench. You use it to tighten bolts to the appropriate pressure.”

“I see,” Dad murmurs from beside me, causing me and Michael to crack up laughing.

“What?” Dad demands, looking between us both. “I’m learning things and making appropriate learning noises.”

“Moving on,” Michael snorts, holding up another tool. “This is a screwdriver.”

“What’re you doing out in the garage?” Isabel asks as she wanders in, eating out of a bowl of ice cream.

“Michael’s giving us a few lessons in automotive repair,” I tell her. “Did you know that a torque wrench is used to tighten bolts?”

Isabel takes a seat and tries to look suitably impressed. “I didn’t.”

“You have such cool shit,” Michael tells us with a sigh of longing as he looks at the array of shiny, unused tools in front of him.

Dad leans in and tells him in a conspiratorial whisper. “I don’t even know what half of them do.”

Michael shudders at that admission. “That makes me want to weep.”

“So, Michael,” Isabel says with a smile. “I hear congratulations are in order...”

“Why? What’s happened?” Dad asks eagerly.

“Maria took Michael back,” Isabel informs us, a smile on her face as she takes another spoonful.

“Hey! Nice work, dude, congrats!” I enthuse, clapping him on the back.

“Did she tell you about the other half of the deal?” Michael asks grumpily.

Isabel shakes her head warily. “No...”

“I have to go to therapy,” he tells us with a roll of his eyes. “Apparently I need to work on my trust issues.”

There’s a deathly silence after his pissy declaration, and I can see it written on my dad’s and my sister’s faces. Like me, they both think it’d be a good idea for him to go to therapy. I hesitate, then tentatively say, “Maybe it won’t be as bad as you’re thinking. Maybe... maybe it’ll even help you.”

“Doubtful,” he mutters. “But I guess I’ve got to take my punishment.”

“You think she’s punishing you?” Isabel asks with concern.

“What else would it be? She’s pissed at me so she’s making me pay.”

“She could just be concerned about you, Michael,” Dad offers gently. “Concerned and a little bit worried that you might break up with her again.”

Michael grunts and bobs down to take a closer look at the wheels of Dad’s bike. “I think the rubber’s a bit bald on your tires, you probably need new ones. By the way, what’s the name of that therapist you guys go to?”

“David. I can get you his number,” I tell him as he continues to inspect the bike.

“Great,” Michael mutters sarcastically. “Looking forward to that.”

“But at least you got Maria back,” Dad says, trying to get Michael out of his annoyed mood. “That’s got to be worth an hour of inconvenience a week.”

“Yeah,” he agrees quietly as he stand up, finally showing some enthusiasm about the whole thing. “I’ve dealt with worse things than therapy and I’d deal with a lot more to have her back.”

“It’ll be a walk in the park for you, Michael,” agrees Isabel, obviously thinking the same thing that the rest of us are. We just need him to actually agree to go to therapy and then once he’s there, hopefully David can work his magic. I have a feeling that Michael might be even more screwed up than the rest of us.

“Seems like the party’s in here,” muses Mom as she wanders into the garage with Tia in her arms. “I’m sad I wasn’t invited.”

“Dere’s no pardy in here,” Tia states definitively. “Dere’s no bawwoons. You can’t have a pardy wivout bawwoons.”

“Well I stand corrected then,” Mom tells her with a smile.

“And awso, dere’s just a bunch of gross tings in here.”

“Gross things?” Michael asks with a smile. It’s amazing how lit up his face gets when Tia’s around. She’s got him wrapped around her little finger. If I’m honest, she’s got everyone wrapped around her little finger.

She screws up her face. “Yeah, spidey webs and dust. Icky.”

“You’re so slack, Mom,” I tell her with a laugh. “Why haven’t you vacuumed in here?”

“The day you tidy your room is the day that I vacuum in here.”

“So... never then?”

“That sounds about right to me, Max. By the way, Liz is on the phone.”

I make a mad dash inside, ignoring my entire family’s catcalls, wolf whistles and kissy noises. They’re so mature.

“Hey you,” I answer, after grappling up the phone.

“Hey,” she replies. “I was thinking, what are you doing tonight?”

“Oh gee, I dunno. I’ve got some full on TV viewing lined up for tonight. I don’t know if you can compete with reruns of Animal Planet.”

Her laugh filters through the phone and I smile.

“How about I sweeten the deal by telling you that you can pick the movie and do that disgusting thing that you like to do with the chocolate and put it on the popcorn so that it melts all over it.”

I let out a moan at the thought. “That sounds so good...”

“Max,” Michael tells me as he wanders past me into the kitchen. “You know the rules, no phone sex in the house.”

“Blow me,” I mouth back at him.

“Incest is best,” he tells me, reminding me of a similar conversation I once had with Liz before we got together. I smile at the memory and the idea that Michael and I have such similar senses of humour.

“What time do you want me to pick you up?”

“About eight, I have to do my make up,” Michael answers, laughing as I shoo him away.

I scowl at his back as he retreats, still chuckling to himself.

“Seven sound good to you?”

“Seven sounds great, I’ll see you there.” I hang up with a smile and turn around just in time to see Isabel give Michael a wedgie for something he said. I think her punishment is ruined by the fact that they’re both laughing hysterically.

Life is so great right now, I honestly can’t think of anything that could make it better.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 46, 1st August 10

Postby Rowedog » Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:19 pm

You guys are so suspicious! It’s not like I ended it with, “I don’t know what could possibly go wrong.” Max just said he didn’t know how it could better, not that he didn’t think it could get worse. Miles apart in terms of meaning.

Thank you guys for waiting for this update, I don’t deserve you Sorry if I missed anyone in my feedback appreciation list. You should know by now that it's not personal, I'm just dumb.

Notyourchick
Ellie
BB-
Btw, what happened when Amy came back with Tia a few minutes later and found her daughter dishevelled, buttons missing from dress and back together with Michael?

Lol, Maria has spare clothes at the centre. After Michael got paint on her a couple of times she felt it necessary to keep some spares.
Zanity
Ginger
Ju
Keepsmiling7
Sunrise102
Natalie36
Drogyn-
Sorry, but everytime I read the word 'surge' now, I can do little more than just grin widely because someone (yes, i'm looking at you) had to mention it in one of her fics.

I believe it was Kyle who mentioned it in Slavery, and really, his opinion doesn’t count. :lol:
Neve-
I don't like Max's last statement. If I recall somebody said something similar in Never in doubt and then you drove Liz off a cliff. :lol: Please don't do that again.

What? No I didn’t. Everyone just thought I drove her off a cliff. I knew she was fine and that’s main thing. :lol:
Eve
Cardinal
Novy
Destinyc
Stefuh-
Welcome! I’m so glad you’re enjoying my fic!
And I'm sorry for my poor english, it isn't my first language!

Please, don’t ever apologise for that. I can’t imagine how tricky it would be to write in a different language and I admire anyone who has the guts to write a fic or leave feedback in a language that isn’t their first. English is my only language and at times I don’t even speak that well, so I can’t imagine trying to do it in another language. Thank you for your lengthy response, especially given that you’re ESL. It was very much appreciated!
Emerald.Isle
Steph-
How are you feeling, my dear? Any better?
April-
I always end chapters with lines like that right when everything's about to go to hell, so hopefully you're not as cruel and sadistic as I am

I’m not even close to the level of evilness that you are. You are on an entirely different level when it comes to screwing people over in fics :lol:. Although, you might be pleased to know that I’ve started writing a completely angsty candy fic with m/m being truly fucked up. Of course, they’re not your level of twisted and fucked up, but they’re doing pretty well I think.
Sundae


Part Forty Seven

'Let me be the one you call
If you jump I'll break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night
If you need to fall apart
I can mend a broken heart
If you need to crash then crash and burn
You're not alone'
Crash and Burn by Savage Garden


***

Max’s POV


“So he says to me, and this is a direct quote here, “Dude, do you have any idea how many chicks I’m going to be able to pull once I get out of here? All I got to do is pull the old, “cancer survivor” card and they won’t be able to keep their hands off me. I’ll have to sort out some sort of ranking system in order of hotness to see who gets the next slice of Johnny.”

We all laugh raucously at Alex’s story as he shakes his head in bewilderment. “I swear, he’s like the next Marco, but way cooler.”

“That’s harsh,” Isabel tells him with a fond smile. “No one should be compared to Marco. Especially not a 12 year old cancer patient who you happen to adore.”

“Yeah, when he’s not hitting on my girlfriend,” Alex laughs.

“Jealous?” Isabel teases. I watch her interactions with Alex and note that not once has the smile come off of her face. He makes her so happy and I can’t help but be grateful for the change that’s he brought out in her.

We’re at the park for the summer class picnic get together which happens every year. The five of us are huddled around a picnic table together, just hanging out.

Alex winks at Isabel as he informs her, “By the way, should you ever want to “step on up”, he told me to tell you that you’re ranked first on his list.”

Isabel grimaces and laughs with a small amount of horror. “Oh gross. That’s pedophilia.”

“Hey dudes, can we crash your party?” Kyle interrupts, towing along Tess behind him.

I nod as they approach the table and they are greeted with affirmative answers all round.

“Marco’s been annoying the crap out of me,” he tells us, by way of explanation. “He’s been trying to pry into my sex life because he has none of his own. I’m this close to sack tapping him, I really am.”

“What’s sack tapping?” Liz enquires, causing a deathly silence to fall over the table. Kyle takes a bite of his sandwich and the rest of us avoid looking in her direction. This is not something I want to explain to my girlfriend.

“Liz, what part of the male anatomy is referred to as the sack?” Alex asks with a long suffering sigh.

“Oh...” she exclaims, before frowning in confusion. “But tapping doesn’t seem like it would hurt very much. It sounds almost pleasant.”

Kyle shakes his head vehemently and swallows his mouthful. “It’s less of a tap and more of a wrist flick and a hit with the knuckles. Believe me, I’m not about to go around playing with Marco’s balls.”

“Glad to hear it, babe,” Tess says wryly, before taking a bite out of her sandwich.

“It’s ok though. While he wasn’t looking I snagged his packet of chips.” Kyle takes the opportunity to pop one in his mouth and let out an exaggerated moan. “They taste so good because they’re free.”

Rolling her eyes at him, Tess turns her attention back on us. “So what’s been going on guys? How’s your summer going?”

“Pretty good,” I reply. “Just been having lessons on how to fix a motorcycle from Michael. Dad and I are now actually able to do stuff to the bike without Michael being there.”

“Yeah,” laughs Isabel. “But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it correctly. How many times have you ran up to Michael’s room and had to ask him to come down to the garage to fix your mistakes?”

“We’re trying,” I reply, pulling a face at her.

“Wait… is Michael staying at your house?” asks Kyle, a look of confusion plastered across his face.

All of us freeze as Kyle asks the one question I don’t really have much of an answer to. Except for telling him the truth. I suppose it had to come out some time and despite my earlier misgivings of Kyle, he’s actually he’s a very decent guy. Maybe it would be ok to start letting people know a little bit about my past. I mean, no one so far has reacted badly to it and I wouldn’t want Michael to think that I’m ashamed to call him my brother.

I send a reassuring smile over to Isabel, who looks particularly distraught, probably because she was the one to accidentally spill the beans. It was an easy mistake to make, I’m not holding that against her. I didn’t even pick up on it until Kyle mentioned it.

Kyle looks puzzled by the tense undercurrents he can feel from us, so I smile as confidently as I can. “Yeah. We just found out that our biological mother had a son before us and that it was Michael, so he’s staying with us so that we can get to know him better.”

Kyle’s mouth drops open and he alternates between staring at me and staring at Isabel. “You guys are adopted?”

“Kyle,” snaps Tess, looking embarrassed, “Stop being insensitive.”

“No, it’s ok,” I reassure her. “He’s allowed to be shocked, it’s not something we’ve ever really talked about. But yeah, we are.”

Kyle pauses for a minute, obviously deciding which question to ask first. “So... how come you guys and Michael didn’t grow up together?”

“We were split up during foster care and we were all too young to remember.”

Kyle’s eyes just about bug out of his head as he takes in that piece of info. “Wow! How’d you find out about Michael? Were you exchanging stories and realised you came from the same place or did he hunt you down, or...”

“No, much more boring than that” I reply, using the excuse we had all agreed upon previously. None of us are particularly keen to talk about Meg, so we decided on this very basic cover story to save us the embarrassment should the situation arise where we ever needed to use it. “Dad needed some paperwork for us and in hunting it down he discovered Michael’s existence.”

“That is so cool!” enthuses Kyle. “I never would have guessed that you were adopted though.”

“You’re adopted, Evans?” Marco practically yells out, causing all conversation within a fifty yard radius to come to a halt as all eyes swing my way. Apparently our picnic table is next to bin and on making his way there, Marco has caught on to the tail end of Kyle’s comment. Well, at least he’s not littering.

I school myself to keep my face impassive. “Yep.”

“Dude, when did you find out?”

“I’ve always known,” I reply calmly, feeling my heart beat triple time in my chest. Dealing with the aftermath of Meg had been hard enough when no one knew about it, but I don’t know that I could handle if this became something that my peers exploited. I can’t let them know that it’s a weakness of mine. They’d eat me alive.

“So, is Isabel adopted too?”

“Yeah,” Isabel replies, copying my nonchalance so seemingly effortlessly I can’t help the pride that swells through me. “Max and I are brother and sister by blood and got adopted at the same time.”

“How come you’ve never said anything?” demands Marco with all the tact of a brick to the face.

I shrug, feigning disinterest. “Because it doesn’t matter.”

I turn my back on him and return to my sandwich, hoping like hell that he’ll take this is as a cue to rack off. I feel a supportive squeeze under the table and smile tensely at Liz. Slowly but surely, people return to their lunch when they realise that the show’s over. I let out a sigh of relief when the majority of eyes have turned away.

“You handled that well,” Liz whispers to me, lacing her fingers through mine.

“So, Maria… I hear you and Michael are back together,” begins Tess, obviously sensing our discomfort and turning the attention onto someone else.

Maria blinks at Tess, apparently having been lost in her own thoughts. She hasn’t said much of anything for the entire time we’ve been here, but I’m sure she’ll have lots to say about this topic.

“Yeah,” she replies bluntly, not offering up any other information. We all exchange confused glances with one another at this strange reaction. This isn’t the Maria we know.

“Well that’s good, isn’t it?” Tess asks hesitantly, clearly as put out by her demeanour as the rest of us.

“Yeah,” she replies with slightly more enthusiasm and an attempt at a smile. “It’s good. How long have you and Kyle been going out for? Must be close to a year now, right?”

Tess and Kyle then go off on a tangent about the their hotly contested date of anniversary. Tess says it was the first date. Kyle claims that it was the day she let him touch her boobs. I laugh at their exchange, but my focus is more on Maria. In fact, it’s only Tess and Kyle who aren’t watching Maria out of the corner of their eye.

I watch Liz and Alex exchange glances and I know they’re planning to say something to her. I’m relieved to see that they’re going to take some action over her unhappiness that she’s trying to hide. I think Maria’s awesome and she’s my friend, but this is more best friend territory stuff.

One thing’s for sure though, I need to have a chat with Michael about it.

***

Maria’s POV


I didn’t go to work today.

I was meant to get up, shower, eat, brush my teeth and go waitressing with Liz. Instead I rang up Jeff and told him that I was sick and couldn’t come to work today. I didn’t get up, I didn’t shower, I didn’t eat, I didn’t brush my teeth and I didn’t answer the phone when Liz rang.

I just lay in bed with the curtains drawn. I didn’t sleep, I just lay there in the dark.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

***

Max’s POV


“Michael,” Dad greets as Michael slumps into the kitchen an angry scowl on his face. Today he’s going to see David as per his deal with Maria. I hope David’s prepared for this. But if anyone can get through to Michael, it’s David.

“How much does one of these stupid sessions cost, anyway?” Michael grunts, clearly not in the mood for pleasantries.

“Oh, about that, Michael,” Dad begins, “I was talking to David about the payment scheme and-”

“I don’t want your frigging charity, alright? I can pay for it myself,” he practically snarls.

To his credit, Dad doesn’t look even slightly put out. He takes a sip of his coffee calmly before answering that particular accusation. “Actually, Michael, David has a family package deal. A buy two, get one free sort of deal, if you will.”

“What?” Michael snaps, clearly not believing a word of what Dad’s telling him.

“It’s to encourage family therapy, apparently. He figures that if there’s two in the family with issues then it’s likely that the other family members have issues as well. By running a scheme like that it helps him to delve deeper into the family’s problems. So your sessions are already considered payed, for as long as Max and Isabel still see David that is.”

Dad turns and tips the rest of his coffee down the sink and then grabs a bagel from the toaster and begins to smear cream cheese over it. Michael watches him speculatively, a range of different emotions running over his face. Eventually his face relaxes into acceptance and although still suspicious, Michael has clearly decided to leave it at that for the time being.

“I gotta go,” Michael grunts, grabbing his keys and his wallet from the table. “Later.”

Once his bike’s down the street, I turn to Dad. “You’re paying for his sessions, aren’t you?”

“Of course,” Dad replies, gazing out the kitchen window solemnly. “You have no idea what we owe that boy. He could have been raised by us and had everything you two had, but because of my laziness and not following Meg’s past up he never got to have a childhood. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for that.”

Dad claps his hand on my shoulder and squeezes before exiting the kitchen.

***

Michael’s POV


“You don’t want to be here, do you Michael?” David asks me.

“Not particularly,” I reply coolly, toying with arm of the chair and avoiding his gaze.

“Your brother does that,” he tells me idly, causing my head to snap up and my gaze to rest intently on him.

“What?”

He shrugs, jotting something down in his notepad. “When your brother is uncomfortable in here, he toys with the arm of the chair. I bet there’s a lot that’s similar between you and your brother.”

“You think so?” I ask, trying to keep the desperate hopefulness out of my voice. There’s nothing I’d love more than to have something to connect with my brother on. He and Isabel have had each other for years and I can’t deny that I’m jealous of that bond. So the idea that Max and I have innate similarities, something more than just DNA, is bewitchingly alluring.

“Does the idea make you happy, Michael?”

I shrug, annoyed that he noticed that.

“How are you finding living with the Evans family?”

“It’s alright,” I grunt.

“What’s your relationship like with Max?” he asks, oblivious to the fact that his prying into my life, relationships and feelings is totally and completely abhorrent to me. I’m a private person. This is my idea of hell.

“Pretty good.”

“And Isabel?” he perseveres despite my obvious reluctance.

“Fine.”

“How about Diane?”

That last one snaps what’s left of my control. “Dude, are we seriously going to sit here and play twenty questions? Everything in my life is fine. I’m fine. What’s with all the questions?”

David doesn’t react to my outburst and it only makes me want to throttle him more. “I’m just trying to get a feel for who you are, Michael. If I’m going to help you, then I need something of an idea about who you are and what you like.”

“I never asked for help,” I grunt.

“Then why are you here, Michael?” he asks me, his voice never wavering from calm and collected. It only serves to piss me off further. “To come to therapy not seeking help seems like a waste of time to me.”

“My girlfriend made me.”

David cocks an eyebrow at this statement. It’s the first real response he’s given me so far. “She made you?”

“One of the conditions of us getting back together was that I go to therapy.”

David seems intrigued by this. “You were broken up?”

“I broke it off with her because she betrayed my trust and suddenly I’m the bad guy in this scenario. I mean, yeah I overreacted, but I think this is a way bigger overreaction than any I’ve ever had.”

I can’t believe I just said all of that. Oh well, it’s not like Max couldn’t tell him if he asked anyway.

“How did she break your trust?”

I let out a sigh, not even sure why the hell I’m letting him know all this shit. I suppose it’s because I want to tell Maria that I actually tried and it didn’t work. Yeah, that’s it. I’d love to prove her wrong about this. “I told her that I was still making payments to my mother so that I could keep Tia, my sister. I used to go there once a week to hand over the money to that bitch. She told Phillip after I made it clear that I didn’t want him to know. I mean, yeah, objectively I can see that telling Phillip was a good thing to do, because now they have custody of her and Meg can’t touch her. And yeah, it was hard going there week after week and it was a relief not to have to go anymore. But, it wasn’t her secret to tell; it was mine.”

David muses for a second before offering his opinion. “Michael, I can understand how you would feel betrayed by your girlfriend’s actions.”

I blink sharply at him, not expecting that answer. “You do?”

David nods very seriously. “Of course. You told her something in confidence and she broke that confidence. It’s a valid emotional response to feel betrayed, hurt and angry.”

“Thank you,” I sigh, glad that somebody finally gets it.

He continues after a moment, completely squashing any hope I had of further understanding from him. “Of course, I can understand where your girlfriend’s coming from too. To watch your partner suffer on a weekly basis and to know that another person that you love – an innocent child at that - could be taken away out of her safe loving environment must have been awful for her. Especially knowing that she only had to say something to Phillip to end it all.”

Should have known that it was too good to be true. “Enough with the guilt trip, ok?”

“I’m not trying to guilt trip you, Michael. That isn’t my intention. I was merely pointing out that neither of you is right or wrong. There’s no clear winner. Nothing’s black and white.”

“If that’s so doc, what am I doing here? Why is she still punishing me? All I want is her and I’ve apologised for overreacting.”

David looks up at me, lowering his pen for a moment. “Michael, I don’t profess to know your girlfriend’s motives. Maybe she thinks you need someone objective to talk to. Or maybe there’s more problems between you two than your break up.”

“What do you know about my relationship?” I snarl, immediately bristling at the idea that this guy is already branding me a fuck up.

“I only know what you’ve told me, Michael,” David tells me calmly. “Keep in mind that these are only suggestions. In no way are they meant to be taken as my judgement of your relationship. I don’t know either you or Maria well enough to form any sort of opinion about the two of you as a couple.”

I sink back into my chair, feeling somewhat foolish for my outburst. David takes the opportunity to begin his previous line of enquiry again.

“So, you’ve moved into the Evans household.”

I nod, not volunteering any more information.

“That must be a huge transition to adjust to.”

I shrug again. “I guess.”

He looks at me over the top of his glasses as he takes down notes. I feel like a lab rat.

“How are you finding them?

“Ok, I guess.”

“What are Diane and Phillip like?”

“I don’t know,” I groan, hating every second of this. “Phillip’s alright I guess. Diane’s… she’s…”

I trail off and David waits patiently for me to finish off my thought.

“She’s what, Michael?” he prompts gently.

I take a deep breath and exhale slowly as I fix my gaze on the cobwebs in the corner of the room. “She’s a little overbearing.”

“How so?” he asks, no note of censure in his voice. It’s not like he’s actually asking me to justify my claims, it’s more that he’s actually interested in why I feel that way. This guy throws me off balance a little bit.

“It’s like she wants to be my Mom or something. I don’t need a Mom. I’ve never needed a Mom. I got along just fine without one for pretty much all of my life. And when I did have one, she was pretty frigging awful. I did just fine without a family and I will continue to do just fine when they-”

I pull up short and avoid David’s piercing gaze. It’s silent for a long moment before David speaks. “When they what, Michael?”

I don’t answer.

Eventually after a long, heavy period of silence, David asks, “Do you think it’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll eventually kick you out of their home one day, Michael?”

“Considering my track record with guardians and parents, I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to think that they probably will one day,” I reply tersely, my fingers digging into the arm of the chair.

“What reasons do you think will force them to take that action?’ David enquires lightly.

I roll my eyes. Surely his imagination could provide him with some ideas of his own. “They could get sick of me. They could realise that I’m nothing more than trailer trash and decided that I’m beneath them. They wake up one day and realise that me living in their home is an embarrassment and a drain on their funds. Pick a reason, any reason.”

“Does this fit your view of Diane and Phillip, Michael? Now that you’ve gotten to know them better is this something you could reasonably see them doing in the future?”

Images of my time at the Evans’ household war with my long held beliefs. All my knowledge of them as people tells me that they wouldn’t kick me out, but my distrust and long held beliefs about parental and guardian figures tells me that I’d be a complete fool to put any faith in them.

“Maybe.”

David rests his pen for a second after scribbling a quick note on his notepad. “Do you think that after getting to know you that it’s a likely possibility that they’d kick you out?”

“They don’t know me,” I deny, avoiding his question.

David pins me with a stare. “Is that from lack of trying on their part or yours?”

I’m taken aback by David’s suddenly pointed appraisal. Who does he think he is?

“I didn’t go to their house to play happy families with Diane and Phillip, ok? I went to make sure that Tia was alright and so that I could get to know Max and Isabel a bit better. That’s all.”

“How close do you think you’ve gotten to Max and Isabel?”

I swallow, knowing that my relationships with Max and Isabel are only barely there. We laugh, we chat about inconsequential stuff, but there’s no deep connection yet and I can’t help but wonder if I’m the cause of that. “I’m trying, alright?”

“How hard, Michael? Have you let any of the Evans family in?”

My silence apparently speaks volumes.

After a moment David continues his line of enquiry and I have to fight down all the emotions that his words are creating within me. “Have you ever tried opening up to them, Michael? Letting them see who you really are?”

I shake my head and clear my throat before attempting to speak. “No.”

“Why do you suppose that is?”

“What if they-” I swallow heavily and take a moment, not trusting my voice. “What if they didn’t like what they found?”

“And what if they did?” David queries, leaning forward to look at me through his spectacles. “What if you showed them who you are and they loved you, flaws and all? How would you deal with that? What possible reason could you come up with to push them away then?”

“I don’t... I don’t know,” I whisper.

“What scares you more, Michael? That they’ll reject you, or that they’ll accept you? Are you capable of letting someone in?”

I rile at his suggestion, even as I feel the sting of truth in it. “I let Maria in.”

“Not all the way. You and I both know that you have never handed over your trust implicitly to anyone. It’s why you reacted so harshly when Maria showed the first sign of human frailty. You were just waiting for her to break your trust. You’ve never handed someone your trust and hoped that they wouldn’t break it, you’ve handed it to them and waited for them to screw up and prove you right.”

I flinch at the confronting nature of his words and lash out in response. “You know, I haven’t exactly had the easiest upbringing, doc. So you’ll excuse me if I’m not exactly enthralled with humanity.”

David pauses and looks at me; studying me with what looks to be curiosity. “I’m coming at you very hard with this, Michael. I know that. But please understand that I’m doing this for a reason.”

“Care to enlighten me as to what that reason could possibly be?” I spit out as caustically as I can.

David takes his glasses from his face and polishes them on his shirt as he speaks. “We’re a product of our environment, Michael. People – children in particular – take in and absorb what’s around them – especially behaviours. You grew up with an emotionally unstable drug addict and a drunken, abusive foster father. Two people who by all accounts are very reactionary and angry. Many people who have had upbringings like yours develop absolutely no anger management skills. And yet, even when confronted with painful personal truths, you are not quick to lash out. And even when you get angry, your tone leads more to sarcasm than pure rage. In fact, even as we’re sitting here right now, I can see that your anger is rapidly fading. Your jaw isn’t as tight and you’ve unclenched your fists. Speaking solely from a developmental point of view - your reactions are simply remarkable, Michael.”

I’m still leery of him, despite how flattering he’s being. “Is that a compliment or something?”

“One of the highest I’ve ever given out,” he replies simply, writing something down in his pad. “So tell me, Michael. Why are you so comparatively emotionally adjusted? What is it that calms you down?”

“I don’t know...”

“Surely you have some way of expressing your emotions. You wouldn’t be sitting here so calmly if you didn’t.”

I’m reluctant to tell him why I think it is and even more reluctant to place stock in what he’s saying. To accept what he’s saying would be to admit that I did something somewhat admirable and difficult. Plus, there’s every chance he’ll completely dismiss it.

He’s silent, prepared to outwait me, just for my answer. “I paint. Maybe that has something to do with it.”

I wait for him to laugh. He doesn’t. He merely nods his head and writes it down. “Why do you think that painting has helped you so much?”

I shrug, unable to word what it is about painting that makes it so meaningful to me.

“Let’s start with an easier question and go from there. What do you feel while you’re painting?”

That’s hardly an easier question there, doc. “I don’t know... everything. Nothing. It’s like... everything I’ve felt since I last painted just explodes out of me and I’m left with this sort of... calm. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”

“You deal with your emotions through painting?” It’s more of a statement than a question, but I answer it anyway.

“I guess.”

“Fascinating. Your emotional outlet is also your marketable skill. I hear from Max that you conduct art classes. Is that correct?”

“Yeah,” I reply, both put out and excited by the idea that Max talks about me to his therapist.

“Do you think there’s anything else that made you able to cope better than others from similar backgrounds?”

“Tia, I guess. When you’re responsible for someone so small and fragile you kinda have to grow up. You have to be a better person.”

“Tia is your sister and you took care of her before the Evans family took her in. Correct?”

I push back the resentment I always feel whenever I’m reminded that I’ve been supplanted in Tia’s life and focus on answering David’s question. “Yeah, that’s right.”

“That must have been hard for you, making that decision to hand her over to the Evans’.”

“It wasn’t a hard decision to come to. It was the only one. She deserves a better life and she deserves what the Evans’ can give to her.”

David nods, agreeing with me. “Oh, intellectually it would be a fairly simple decision to come to, the difficulty I’m referring to would be in acting on that decision and dealing with the aftermath.”

I blink in surprise when his words hit a raw nerve inside me, but instead of anger it’s a deep grief that fills me. Having David speak about the pain that I’ve barely even acknowledged leaves me with a pain so intense that for a moment it’s all I can do not let loose the tears building in my tear ducts.

“I’m sorry,” David tells me sincerely. “That seems to be a painful subject for you. Let’s move onto something else. Why don’t you tell me about your girlfriend? How did you two meet?”

Despite my best attempts I can’t help but feel some gratitude towards David when he changes the topic. He’s not so bad after all.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 47, 13th Nov 10

Postby Rowedog » Sun May 22, 2011 8:58 am

Ok, so… Update time. I’ve graduated University after the worst year of my life. Got a job teaching kidlets and am generally a much happier being. I also won a shitload of awards for this fic and others. Should have won ‘World’s Worst Updater’, I’d have taken that award without a second thought because I sure have earned it.

I think this is the longest I have ever gone without updating this fic and for that I am immensely sorry. I’ve had five pages of this update sitting in my folder taunting me for months, but writer’s block has been an absolute bitch. I’m so sorry, really. You’re all so great and I’m not worthy.

Also, nibbles and I have a bet going. Whoever finishes their “neverending fic” first gets a ficlet written for them by the loser. So I have more incentive now to finish this before she finishes gold diggers.

BB- And you said it couldn’t be done.
Michael is reactionary, much more so than Max and Isabel. David never prodded Max and Isabel into talking because he knew it would have a disastrous effect. Michael is different and more prone to rise to the bait and David’s a good reader of people.
Ellie- David knows how to work his patients’ personalities towards his favour.
Keepsmiling7
Novy
Ginger
Zanity
Eve
Drogyn
Neve-
Not a miracle worker, just a good reader of people.
Stefuh
Lover of Metallica
AlysLuv
Cardinal
April-
I think you are the only candy excited by the prospect of a fucked up Michael and Maria.
Valentine Baby – Welcome to the fic!
HypnotiqBlueEyes – Thank you and welcome to my fic! Don’t praise me too much, after the gap between updates I’m quite positive I don’t deserve it.
MILA – The humour really did disappear for a while, but I did promise happy endings and the dreamers are all starting to get that now. However my candy readers aren’t having as much fun at the moment. :(

Part Forty Eight

'I let it fall, my heart
And as it fell, you rose to claim it
It was dark and I was over
Until you kissed my lips and you saved me
My hands, they were strong, but my knees were far too weak
To stand in your arms without falling to your feet'
Set Fire To The Rain by Adele


***

Liz’s POV


“How’s David?” I ask as we walk hand in hand through the park.

“David is as ever David was,” Max replies. “Enigmatic and pensive.”

“You make him sound like some sort mystical guru or something,” I snort.

“I’m pretty sure he’s got magical powers,” Max says lazily with a yawn. “Powers us mere mortals could never comprehend.”

“Like the power to help heal young boys wounded by their past?”

He nods and I’m pleasantly surprised that bringing up Max’s past and how much it has affected him hasn’t soured the mood. He must really be getting better if he’s not upset by me mentioning it.

I glance up at him from beneath my lashes. “So, you really think that therapy is working?”

“I’m really trying to put the past behind me,” Max catches the look on my face and rushes to reassure me. “And not in a ‘repress all bad memories’ sort of way, but in a ‘deal with it and move forward from it’ sort of way.”

“How goes that?”

He takes a moment and I can tell that he’s preparing himself for an admission of brutal honesty. “Hard. Harder than I ever anticipated.”

“But it’s worth it, right?” a trace of uncertainty in my voice.

He smiles warmly at me. “Right. You know, when I started this I’ll admit I wasn’t too keen on rehashing the past and I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. But now, I kinda like what it’s doing to me. I kinda like how much calmer it makes me and how much more at peace I feel.”

“I am so glad to hear that,” I tell him, smiling beatifically up at him as I sling my arm around his waist. “Wait, what were the wrong reasons?”

He shoots me a sheepish glance. “Doing it so that my girlfriend didn’t leave me. I’m thankful for that reason because I never would have tried if it hadn’t been there, but it’s not exactly the best reason to go to therapy.”

“Well, maybe you can give Michael that tip seeing as he’s now going to therapy for his girlfriend.”

His eyebrows rise up as he considers my words. “I never thought of it like that… though I suppose he is just going for Maria’s sake. However, in the interest of keeping brotherly relations free and easy, I’ll refrain from talking about therapy with him. The topic only makes him grumpy and pissed off.”

“And you would prefer to keep the peace?”

“Very much so. Though at some point I’m going to have to talk to him about Maria. Maybe he could get through to her. By the way, are you still having trouble with that?”

I sigh despondently at the reminder of my friend’s emotional closing down. The ever present worry begins to gnaw a little more at my insides. “She won’t talk to either me or Alex and has now begun to avoid us. It really feels like our only options are to ignore the problem or face eventual shutting out if we keep probing.”

“That sucks,” he says with a heavy sigh. “I wish I could help.”

“Just talk to Michael. That’s all you can do at the moment.”

He nods and I attempt to swing our conversation back into happier territories. “So, guess who I talked to the other day in psych class?”

Max takes on a thoughtful look. “That friend that you’re only friends with because you don’t want to be a loner? I can never remember her name.”

“I’m sure she’s crushed,” I laugh. “No, it was Harris.”

“Who’s he?” he asks, trying to remember a Harris.

“You know… he’s medium build, blue eyes, brown hair cut in a Justin Bieber style…”

He shakes his head at me as I trail off.

“He’s gay,” I state bluntly and watch recognition light up Max’s features.

“Oh him! Why didn’t you just say so at the start?” he demands with a roll of his eyes.

“Because someone’s sexuality shouldn’t be the only thing that defines them?” I suggest, shaking my head at him. “Anyway, I’ve decided he’s my new best friend, despite his terrible taste in music.”

He sends me a knowing look. “Is he into Justin Bieber?”

“Sadly, yes. Anyway, we’re pretty much the same person I’ve decided. We have the same taste in movies, TV, ice cream and favourite colours. We also both want to go to Harvard to study molecular biology. Of course, our dreams differ slightly in that I don’t want to marry the Biebs.”

Max nods thoughtfully. “And I suspect he probably doesn’t want me as a boyfriend.”

“Not true,” I tell him with a shake of my head. “He told me that the only reason he wants to be friends with me is so that he can live vicariously through me and my relationship with you. Also, he told me that you have a cute butt.”

“I’m kind of flattered,” he tells me, before his face creases with concern. “And kind of not. The dude loves Justin Bieber. I’m hardly up there with great company.”

“There, there.” I pat him on the arm and laugh to myself. “Of course, to make sure that he was no longer interested in you, I told him that you had a small penis.”

“YOU WHAT?” He demands, his face as hilariously outraged as I had imagined.

“I gotta protect what’s mine,” I reply as best I can over my laughter. “You might be swayed by his boyishly good looks and then where would I be?”

“Liz, I’ve got to tell you, if you were a guy I might have had to punch you just then,” he tells me with an irreverent twinkle in his eye.

“Well, that’s not very nice. Even though not half an hour ago you were inside this guy?” I ask with a twinkle in my eye, reminding him of our interlude in the back of his car.

“I have never and would never be inside a guy,” Max tells me resolutely.

“Not even if you were inside the magic school bus? I think they shrunk down and went inside Arnold once.”

He tries to hide his amused smirk from me, but fails miserably. “Ok, for the magic school bus I would make an obvious exception. But aside from that…”

“You know… I once recall you telling me that you spread yourself around and gave everyone a piece of Max pie. Are you telling me that you now discriminate based on gender? You could get sued for that, Max.”

“I don’t think that you can sue over being sexually rejected based on gender, Liz. But thanks for the warning, I’ll definitely look into that.” Max pauses, his brow knitting. “When did I tell you that I was giving everyone a slice of Max pie?”

“When I was sick ages ago.”

Max’s brow remains creased as he tries to remember and he nods slowly after a moment. “Right, that was before we were together.”

I nod my head. “Yep.”

He lets out another heavy sigh as he pulls me into his side. “God, those days sucked.”

I bite back a grin as I begin to tease him. “Tell me what it was like before we were together. Did you pine for me? Did you kiss my yearbook picture goodnight?”

“I wasn’t quite that lame,” Max informs me, rolling his eyes. “But I did facebook stalk your pictures.”

My forehead creases as I try to decipher his words. “Facebook stalk them as in jerking off to the ones that showed some cleavage, or facebook stalk them as in just look at them and wonder at my beauty?”

He shoots me a censorious look, clearly not impressed by me thinking that he could be a possible creeper. “The second one. I didn’t need facebook pics to get aroused by you.”

“So you used your imagination instead?”

He nods and grins at me. “Yeah, it was way better. In my imagination you were naked.”

I come to a halt and stare at him, my mouth agape. “You actually jerked off thinking about me?”

He lifts one eyebrow as he asks, “Would you prefer that I thought about Alex?”

“No,” I concede. “It’s just… it’s a little creepy. That’s all.”

He has the decency to blush. “Liz, I was a teenage boy in love with you, what realistically did you expect? I promise, none of the scenarios in my head were degrading or anything like that. In fact, they pretty much mirror what goes on between us now.”

Despite the creepiness of the situation, I can’t help but melt a little inside at his words. And it’s not like I hadn’t had some sexy thoughts about Max in the past, I just hadn’t acted on them. “So that was just a prelude of things to come?”

“I didn’t know that at the time. I thought that my imagination was the closest I’d ever get to being close to you like that.”

I stare at him, amazed at the stark contradictions in this boy that I love. “Close to me like that? You just admitted to jerkin’ the gherkin to thoughts of me and yet you can’t say the words having sex?”

He pins me with a stare. “We can’t all be brazen hussies like you, Liz.”

I laugh loudly and rest my head on his shoulder. I love that we have the ability to talk like this now. The honesty between us is just incredible.

***

Michael’s POV


“Hey Michael,” Max greets as I come out of my room with my keys in hand. “Where you off to?”

“To see Maria,” I reply, looking forward to getting out of this place. A funny look comes over Max’s face when he registers my reply, but he merely nods and looks away.

I shut the door behind me and make my way down the hall, attempting to pass Max who is just standing there looking indecisive about something.

“Michael. Listen,” Max says suddenly, grabbing me by the arm and halting my way down the hallway when I attempt to pass him. “I think there’s something wrong with Maria.”

I immediately bristle at the insinuation. “What do you mean something’s wrong with her? Nothing’s wrong with her.”

“She isn’t…” Max pauses and then tries to reword his sentence again. “We’re worried about her. She doesn’t look happy and she’s not really acting like herself. I don’t know if it’s a passing thing or if she’s upset about something, but I just thought you should know.”

“Who’s we?” I grunt out, annoyed on Maria’s behalf that her friends have been talking about her behind her back.

“Liz, Alex, Isabel… just the ones that know her well enough to see that she’s not happy. Liz and Alex have been trying to talk to her about it, but I think it’d help if she heard it from you.”

“So, you guys all just banded together and decided that my girlfriend is fucked up, is that it?”

“No!” Max protests, clearly taken aback by my anger. Frankly, I’m taken surprised by it too. I have no idea where it’s coming from or why I’m directing it at Max, but it’s sharp and painful and I need to release it. I can’t stop it. I glare angrily at Max while he attempts to defend himself. “We’re worried about her, Michael! Can you honestly tell me that Maria has been the same since you guys broke up? I don’t think I’ve seen her smile voluntarily once.”

“Oh, I see,” I snarl. “Not only is my girlfriend fucked up, but it’s also all my fault.”

I can see the moment that Max’s patience gives way and the snarling, vicious side of me exalts at the prospect of a fight. “You know what, Michael? Never mind. You’re clearly too busy feeling sorry for yourself to give a rat’s ass about what your girlfriend’s going through.”

I can’t stop myself. I grasp Max by the collar of his shirt and ram him into wall of the hallway. “Say that again…”

Max’s eyes are wide with surprise, as if he can’t actually comprehend what’s going on. We hear a door open and both look in the direction of the noise. It seems our interaction roused Isabel from her room.

“Max? Michael? What’s going on?” Isabel asks, her eyes wide with fear. Fear that’s directed towards me. That in itself is enough to kill the anger that’s been boiling inside me. My hands release Max from my grip and I can’t help but wonder what the hell’s gotten into me. Even though I still think that what Max is talking about is all bullshit, he only approached the subject out of concern for my girlfriend. He may or may not have gone about it the wrong way, but his heart was in the right place and I just about crucified him for it.

“Nothing,” I mumble, before turning and striding off down the hallway. “I gotta go.”

I need to see Maria, if only to reassure myself that Max is completely wrong.

“What the hell just happened?” I hear Isabel hiss, clearly believing that I’m out of ear shot. Guess again, sis.

“I have no idea,” Max mutters in return.

***


Whilst making my way through the DeLuca house, I decide to push my encounter with Max out of my head and just enjoy the time I get to spend with my girlfriend.

I reach her door and knock twice before entering.

“Hey,” Maria greets, not looking up from whatever she’s doing on her laptop.

I enter the room and immediately feel a sense of unease run through me. Something about this doesn’t feel right. Gone are all the colourful knick knacks from her shelves and the bright posters that littered her walls. Her room is now clutter free, but there’s no life in here anymore. It’s drab and dark and not at all reflective of the girl that lives in it. And speaking of dark, why the hell are her curtains drawn during the middle of the day?

“Where’s all your stuff?” I ask as I take a seat on the bed next to her. I try to ignore her slight shifting away from me and remind myself that we’re still rebuilding our relationship, this is going to take time.

“Needed a change,” she replies, her voice sounding both tired and terse.

I wince at the coldness in her voice. “So you changed from colourful and vibrant to drab and dreary?”

“You don’t live here. Why should you care what I do with my room?” she snaps, not even bothering to look at me when she responds.

Try as I may, Max’s words won’t be shut out. They run through my head over and over and scarily enough, I can really see some truth in them.

Maria isn’t acting like her normal self and she doesn’t look happy. I thought it was just because I had broken up with her and she was still mad at me, but if she’s acting that way around everyone and not just me…

“What’s wrong?” I ask bluntly, needing to get to the bottom of this.

Maria recoils from me, a look in her eye that I don’t recognise. “Did I say that anything was wrong?”

“You’re not acting like your normal self,” I tell her, clearly communicating with my eyes that I can see through her bullshit. “You’re snappy and angry, you’re sitting in your room with the curtains drawn when it’s a great day outside and you’ve destroyed any sense of personality or happiness in this room. Seriously, what the fuck is going on with you?”

She takes a deep inward breath after I finish talking, raises her head, looks me in the eye and calmly states, “Fuck you.”

“What?”

The fury in her is now fucking apparent. She’s that worked up that she’s actually shaking. “How dare you waltz back into my life after totally fucking it up and decide that I’ve got problems?

“Maria, I didn’t say that,” I groan in frustration. This really is getting us nowhere.

“No, but that’s what you fucking meant,” she growls. She stands up from the bed and stares me down. “The way I’m feeling is just an inconvenience to you. You don’t care about me, you just want things to go back to the way they were. You want us to be all sunshine and roses and frigging rainbows, but we can’t. You killed that, Michael.”

Now I’m the one that’s pissed off. I stand up and stare her down, trying not to let the look in her eyes frighten me. “You think I don’t care about the way that you’re feeling? Of course I fucking care! It’s blatantly fucking obvious that something’s wrong, you’ve turned your room into a crypt and taken away all your figurines that you’ve been collecting since you were a kid-”

Maria interrupts me with a wild hiss. “You want the figurines back? Fine! Let’s put the fucking figurines back!”

She storms over to her bed and pulls out a heavy cardboard box that clinks when she drops it unceremoniously on the bed. She wildly snatches up a ceramic dolphin and stares at me with a look on her face that I’ve never seen before. “You know what? I think this would go great right over there.”

Before I can even react, she throws the dolphin as hard as she can against the wall and I can do little else but watch in horror as it explodes in a cloud of dust and coloured shards.

“Jesus Christ,” is the most I can utter at this completely manic display from my girlfriend.

“And this one? Right over THERE!” She punctuates the end of her sentence by throwing a ceramic bunny to the right of what used to be a dolphin.

She makes her way through two more figurines before I can shake myself out of my stupor and cross over to her, wresting what appears to be a figurine of a girl with pigtails from her hands.

“Stop it!” I grunt as she tries to twist herself free from my restraining grasp. “Just fucking stop it!”

“Fuck you!” she gets out between her gritted teeth, her voice rising to a crescendo. “I hate you! I hate you! Let me go!”

“Well that’s too bad,” I grunt with exertion as she twists like a wild cat in my arms. “Because I love you and I’m not letting go.”

Her struggles weaken almost immediately and to my absolute horror, she begins to cry. The hands that were clenched on my shirt in an effort to push me away, now pull me closer as her sobs grow in volume.

Her knees give way and I sink to the floor with my arms still around her as she sobs uncontrollably. I tighten my arms around her, feeling as though she’d break into pieces if I didn’t hold her together.

After a long, long time where the only sound in the room was her wild sobbing, her crying stops almost as swiftly as it came on.

She sits very still for a moment, sniffs a couple of times and then pulls herself out of my grasp. I take this moment to ask her what I’m dying to know.

“Maria, what’s wrong? Please... just tell me,” I plead, needing to know what’s wrong with her so that I can fix it.

“Nothing,” she grunts, moving to get up. “I’m fine.”

“No,” I tell her firmly, moving in front of her so that she can’t get past me to the door. “You’re not ok. After what just happened, you can’t expect me to just let it go. Just tell me what’s wrong, because I know you and I know that you aren’t ok.”

Much to my horror, I see tears fill her eyes again as she whispers, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

She begins on another crying jag, however this one is far less violent than the first. To my relief, she doesn’t move away when I move in to embrace her. I hold her close and make a prayer to whichever deity is listening. I need help from someone. I can’t do this on my own. I’m not qualified to fix whatever’s wrong with her.

My eyes widen in realisation as I come up with a fool proof plan. I kiss the top of her head as her crying reduces to sniffles again and take the moment to whisper quietly in her ear, “Do you remember when I asked you if you’d go to a therapist if I asked you to? Well, I’m asking, Maria.”

She moans low in her throat, but doesn’t try to get out of it, much to my delight. I think she knew this was coming, that her problems would get so big that even I – as oblivious and emotionally retarded as I am – would be able to see it.

***

Max’s POV


“Do you think maybe you just hit on something he’s been in denial about? Maybe he sees it just as clearly as we do, but doesn’t want to see it because it scares the crap out of him?” Alex suggests. We’ve all gathered in the kitchen to see if anyone can make any sense out of the whole Michael/Maria situation. So far, we’re failing miserably.

“I don’t know,” I sigh. “But I feel like I owe him an apology. I didn’t handle the situation very well. I came at him with it very strong and I think the way I said it made him feel like it was his fault.”

“Max, he pushed you up against a wall,” Liz protests. “If anyone does any apologising around here, it should be him.”

I smile a little at her loyalty. “It’s alright, Liz. Truth be told, I don’t know how I’d react if someone tried to tell me that you were fucked up because of something I’d done. I can’t imagine I’d react to it well.”

“It’s no reason to shove someone into a wall,” She huffs, clearly pissed off. I probably shouldn’t have told her about that part in the interest of ongoing peaceful interactions between her and Michael. Whoops.

“Max, what are we going to do?” Isabel asks, looking to me for answers.

I shake my head, wondering how on Earth I’m going to deal with the Michael situation.

We all turn towards the front door as we hear Michael enter the house with a weary sigh.

He moves into the kitchen and his eyes zero in on me. Which is probably a good thing because I’m pretty sure Liz is sending him a death glare.

“Can I talk to you for a moment? Alone.”

I nod and we both exit the kitchen and make our way out to the backyard. We stand there side by side for a moment in silence and try not to notice the three peeping toms staring at us through the blinds.

“I’m sorry,” Michael says after a while.

“S’ok,” I mutter in reply, feeling every bit as awkward as he is at this moment.

“No,” he tells me. “It’s really not ok. You were right, there is something wrong with Maria.”

“Did you talk to her about it?” I ask in surprise. I had thought for sure that after this morning he’d have not gone anywhere near that topic.

He lets out an amused snort, but the amusement in it is bitter with a hard edge to it. “I talked; she screamed. And then she ended up throwing four ceramic figurines at the wall.”

My eyes goggle at this revelation. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my God.”

“I’m making her go to therapy,” he continues determinedly. “There is something wrong with her and I can’t just sit back and watch it destroy her.”

“I’m sorry, Michael,” I tell him honestly. “I wish I had been wrong about it.”

“No,” he says with a shake of his head. “I’m sorry. I should have listened. I shouldn’t have taken what you said as a personal attack. You were just looking out for a friend and I crucified you for it. I don’t know why I did it.”

“It’s ok,” I reply, not knowing what to say to him.

“Does therapy help you?” he asks, with no preamble.

I nod, somewhat surprised by his question. “Yeah, it has really helped me. Not just with my relationship with Liz, but in every area of my life. Of course, it totally fucking sucked admitting that I needed help, but there came a time that I couldn’t avoid it anymore.”

“Do you think it could help me?” Michael asks hesitantly, showing me the most open, honest and vulnerable side of him, one that I suspect no one but Maria or Tia has ever seen before. I’m so deeply moved by this, that for a long time I can’t even respond.

“Yeah, Michael. I think it absolutely could.”

We stand there in companionable silence for a long time, just staring at the back fence of our backyard, adjusting to the monumental shifts in our relationship. I knew we were brothers before, but now… now I feel it.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 48, 22nd May 11

Postby Rowedog » Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:40 pm

Hooray! Only one update away from big ol’ chapter 50!

Also, here’s the skinny on what’s been happening with me since I last updated… almost a year ago. I’m so ashamed, you have no idea. Anyway, I’ve got a new job teaching grade 3’s (last year I taught grade 3/4’s) in a different town and bought a new puppy as well as a house. So I’m officially an adult now. Probably. Maybe. Yeah, probably not, but I can dream. So yeah, here’s a slightly longer update as a token gesture to make you hate me a little less for being so slack.

I also wrote my part for Table For Four, so once BB’s done her bit, we can all rejoice. I so need to finish this fic before nibbles2 finishes Golddiggers. If I don’t then I have to write her a ficlet, and I don’t want to do that. I want her to write me a ficlet. So hopefully this will spur me on to more updates. Fingers crossed.

Also, this song is from my favourite moment in Chuck. I love it so much. Check it out.

BB
Ginger
Valentinebaby
Keepsmiling7
Zanity
Novy
Cardinal
Eve
Drogyn
Ellie

MILA – I would like that limerick about jerkin’ the gherkin if it’s still floating around up there in your mind cogs.
Discospider – I’m sorry that I’m such a disappointment as an updater, but you’ll learn to tolerate me. Welcome to the fic!
Phyco352

Part Forty Nine

‘Whats gonna happen to you (bye bye bye)
You have woke up too soon
And the world is rearranged
And now your feelings have changed

Can you remember the day (bye bye bye)
We had to separate
And nobody knows
What's tearing us apart
Cause we're part of one another
A son and a father and a mother and a brother
When the river was still (bye bye bye)
We would not help ourselves (bye bye bye)
It's very easy to do
We never needed to’
Bye Bye Bye by Plants and Animals


***

Alex’s POV


“Meds time,” I inform Johnny as I wander into his room, frowning over the size of his tablets. “Hope your gag reflex isn’t working.”

Johnny looks at the oversize horse tablets and grimaces. “Dude, this sucks.”

“Unfortunately, the kids who get better are the ones who take their meds, so…”

“I’m not taking them,” Johnny exclaims, crossing his arms in defiance and turning his nose up in the air. “I don’t care what you say.”

I sigh in annoyance at his shitty attitude and wish that his mother would get off work early and force him to take his meds.

“So, you don’t want to get better?” I enquire; waving the plastic cup under his nose in what I hope is an enticing way.

“What’s the point?” he grunts. “I’m not going to get better anyway.”

“Dude, what are you talking about?” I ask, wondering where this attitude has come from. It appears to have sprung up overnight.

“I’m not going to-” Johnny stops mid-sentence as my girlfriend wanders through the door. “Why hello, baby. Come back for more?”

Isabel’s eyes widen and she shakes her head in genuine disbelief. “Unbelievable. Alex, when you’re done here can I talk to you about something?”

“You can talk to me if you want,” Johnny intones with a salacious eyebrow wiggle. “I’m a good listener. And a good fondler.”

“And that’s enough from you, you pint-sized lothario,” I tell him with a warning glare. “Take your horse pills and be quiet.”

“These are made out of horse?” he gasps, looking at them in disgust. “I’m definitely not taking them now.”

“They’re not made out of horse!” I snap in frustration, aware that Isabel is giggling behind me as I glare at him. “They’re just big enough for a horse, that’s all I meant.”

“I’m not taking them without some sort of incentive.” He looks Isabel up and down and winks at her. “How about a full body massage?”

“No,” Isabel and I say together.

“I’ll let you have some of my pudding cup,” he says in what he must imagine to be a tempting manner.

“And on that note, I’ll see you later, Alex.” Kissing me on the cheek, Isabel shoots an indulgent smile towards Johnny before heading out.

Johnny shakes his head mournfully and lets out a despondent sigh. “Chicks, man.”

I snort and gently shove his shoulder. “What do you know about women? You’re like three feet tall and your method of seduction is offering to share a pudding cup.”

“You ever tried those pudding cups? They’ll blow your mind, dude.”

I shake my head and shrug. “So strange that someone could resist that, Johnny.”

“Sure sign that your woman is woman is flawed, dude.”

“Or it could mean that she loves me,” I respond dryly, amused by his attempts to distract me from getting him to take his meds.

“That could not possibly be it,” he tells me with a pointed look at my lanky frame. The little bastard. “Why would she go for you, when she could have all of this?”

I try so hard not to laugh at the sweeping gestures he’s making to his diminutive frame and the flexing of his non-existent arm muscles.

“It boggles the mind, really. Especially when you look so good in white.”

“You know what I think? I think that-”

“Johnny?” Whatever Johnny was about to say is now lost, because he’s staring in abject horror at the young girl standing nervously in the door of his room. “Hi.”

I nudge Johnny discreetly when he doesn’t respond. I take the awkward silence to view this new entity. She’s petite, with a sweet face and shockingly bright red hair in pigtails.

“Hi,” he grunts, a dour look on his face.

“Our class made you some cards,” she says, stepping into the room hesitantly, her eyes trained on Johnny’s scowling face. “I said that I’d drop them off and tell you that everyone at school hopes you get better.”

“’Kay,” he scowls. “Well you’ve done that, so you can leave now.”

I slap him upside the head and hiss, “Manners!”

Turning to the poor girl in front of me, I extend my hand. “Sorry about Johnny, he’s just feeling extra sick today. Believe me, it’s not you that’s got him acting like such a jerk. I’m Alex.”

“Nice to meet you, Alex, I’m Poppy,” she replies, placing her tiny hand in mine to shake. I feel like I’m about to crush her fingers in mine. Shouldn’t twelve year old girls be bigger than this?

“Well Poppy, once Johnny gets out of his funk, I’m sure he’ll write you a letter to thank you for coming by today.”

She looks over at Johnny and then back at me, seemingly unconvinced. “Yeah, maybe. Anyway, I better go because my Mom is waiting for me at reception. It was nice to meet you, Alex. Bye Johnny.”

Johnny gives a grunt by way of a goodbye and in a second, she’s out the door.

I turn on him the minute she’s out of ear shot, my voice low and tight with anger. “Johnny?”

He sighs and it’s then that I see the look of sadness on his face. It softens my anger a touch, but not by much. “Leave me alone, Alex. I want to wallow in the bog of my misery.”

I roll my eyes at his melodramatics. “Ok, no more soap operas for you. Mind telling me what the hell that was?”

The scowl returns to his face. “No, just go away.”

“Nope. You’re going to tell me why you were just so rude to that poor girl.”

“Go away!” he snaps, tears welling in his eyes.

I cross my arms over my chest and stare resolutely at him. “I’m not going anywhere, so tell me what’s going on.”

“I don’t want her to see me like this!” he all but yells. “Ok? So could you just leave now?”

I sigh and pity floods me once again as he furiously throws himself down onto his bed and pulls the covers up over his head. Poor little guy. I take a seat on his bed and stare at the Johnny shaped lump under the covers. “You see Johnny, I could leave you alone but it’s against my religion.”

“What sort of crappy religion is that?” he asks with a sniffle.

I bite back a smile at his profanity. Good thing his mother isn’t here. “I’m Amish.”

I hear a snort from under the blankets. “You’re full of poo, is what you are.”

I grin at his comment. “Nah man for reals, I ride around in horse drawn carts and make quilts and stuff.”

“Only women are allowed to make quilts in that religion,” he tells me as he pulls the covers down from over his head to stare at me scornfully. It’s a relief to see him regaining some of his former attitude. Can’t believe I’m saying it, but I missed it. “Duh. And besides, you’d need to grow a beard, live in a commune and not use recent technology. I can see your cell phone in your pocket, dude.”

I cover up my crotch area with my hands as he stares directly at my phone. “You perv!” I tease with a fond smile. “Ok, you got me. I’m not Amish. And how do you know so much about their religion anyway?”

“I watched a documentary on it once. I watch a lot of TV. It’s not like I have much else to do around here,” he informs me, his tone self-pitying and pissed off.

I shrug and take a seat next to his bed. “I guess you don’t.”

He huffs and crosses his arms across his chest. “I just want to be normal, Alex. I want to be normal and have hair and not be sick all the time.”

I watch his helpless tirade with pity swelling to maximum capacity in my heart. I’ve never seen Johnny upset about his condition before.

“I just want to like a girl and not have to worry about looking like a freak, or being too sick to do anything but vomit on her shoes and lay in bed all day.”

My eyebrow raises and I wonder what I can blackmail him to do later on with this information. “Aaah, so you like her.”

He shoots me a scathing look. “Well duh, she’s like the most amazing thing ever.”

“Pro tip, Johnny, from me to you; girls don’t like to be called things. Kinda rubs them the wrong way.”

He nods stiffly. “Noted.”

“So that’s why you freaked out. I’ve never seen you spaz out so much in my entire life.”

“I did not spaz out!” he yells adamantly.

I shoot him my own scathing look now. “You so freaked out.”

“Whatever,” he mutters toying with his blanket. “I know I shouldn’t care what she thinks and stuff. I mean, I’m only twelve. What twelve year old boy crushes this hard on a girl?”

“My friend Max did,” I inform him. “He was jonesing hard for his girlfriend for a very long time before they got together. Since third grade, actually.”

Johnny lets out a low whistle of amazement, before his grumpy face sets back in. “Yeah well, what girl’s gonna want a guy with leukaemia, anyways? She wouldn’t want me.”

“Max thought that too about Liz. He thought she wouldn’t want him because of his past, but he was wrong. And Johnny, you’re not going to have leukaemia forever. Once you get better, you can win this girl. I know you can.”

He shrugs off my words. “She’s too good for me.”

“Good god, that is the most defeatist attitude I have ever heard in my entire life! Good things come to those who wait Johnny. You get through this part of your life and keep being a good person and good things will happen to you. You may not end up with her, but you’ll end up with someone just as good or even better.”

“There’s no one better than her,” he mutters.

“Well then you better fight to get better, Johnny,” I tell him. “If she’s the one you want, then fight for her.”

“How do I do that?” he asks warily, his defensive attitude slowly dropping.

I gesture towards his cup of pills. “You write her an apology letter and take your meds and get better.”

His lip curls up in disgust. “I bet they taste like foetus.”

I let out a startled bark of laughter and then try my best not to encourage him by laughing. “How would you even know what foetus taste like? Just take the damn meds or I’ll tell your Mom you’re hardcore crushing on a girl.”

He scowls at me, but then downs the cup in one foul swoop, choking and spluttering as it goes down.

“Very dramatic performance,” I tell him as I pat him on the back. “I give your pill taking skills a ten out of ten.”

“Shut up,” he grumbles as I head for the door. I turn when I hear him call my name with a touch of uncertainty. “Hey Alex?”

“Yeah?”

He offers me a smile and then whispers, “Thanks.”

I smile at him and wink. “You’re welcome Johnny.”

***

Max’s POV


I’m pretty sure that this is the sneakiest thing I’ve done all week, or ever really. I’m not really one for subterfuge, but I hate walking through the Parkers’ apartment to Liz’s room with her parents’ eyes on me… watching me… it’s off putting. It’s like they know I’ve made love to her and are trying to catch me in the act. I’d never try anything with them under the same roof, but they don’t know that. And I feel like every time I come over I have to make up an excuse as to why I’m here so they don’t just assume I’m here to defile her.

Which is why I’m scaling the ladder to her balcony, hoping like hell that I don’t get caught by them or trip over something in the dark. I’m just here to talk to her, I swear.

I tiptoe around her lounge chair and crouch down beside her window, ready to tap. I stiffen when I realise that she’s sitting on her bed, head in her hands, crying her eyes out. My heart just about falls to the floor and I feel an instantaneous rush of panic mixed with a completely predictable male desire to fix whatever’s wrong.

I scramble to open the window and her head snaps up as I just about fall through in my haste to get to her.

“Oh… Max,” she sniffles, her eyes red and puffy. “I didn’t know you were coming around.”

“What’s wrong?” I demand, clambering onto the bed in front of her.

She shakes her head and sniffles some more. “It’s nothing. It’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid,” I reply, grabbing her hands in mine. “You’re upset.”

“I just…” her voice trails off and her eyes brim with tears again as she tries to relay the story to me. “Mom and Dad and I had this fight and I-”

Her voice breaks and the ache inside me intensifies. Though, I must admit that I feel a great deal of relief to hear that nobody had died or been seriously injured.

Her shoulders heave as she tries to stifle her cries and her hands are covering her face again. I pry them gently off of her face and pull her so that she’s leaning up against me. I encircle her with my arms and stroke her hair as she sobs into my chest.

Somewhere between the sobs she manages to choke out the full story of their family discord, which turned out to be your fairly run of the mill family dispute, but this was nonetheless extremely upsetting to Liz whose family usually resembles the Cleaver clan.

After a while she manages to calm down.

“I’m sorry,” she apologises. “After everything you’ve been through, this must seem like a really stupid thing to get upset about.”

“What? No, Liz, just because I’ve been through some stuff does not make your problems any less valid,” I tell her, needing her to know that anytime she has a problem she can come to me. “You’re allowed to be upset when you feel upset. You shouldn’t feel like you’re not allowed to because my early childhood was crappy, that wouldn’t be fair to you.”

Another tear rolls down her cheek and I brush it off with my thumb.

“You don’t ever have to apologise to me about how you feel. I love you.”

She chokes up again over my avowal and rests her head back against my chest. I wrap my arms back around her and pull her in tighter, my fears of being caught by her parents completely forgotten.

I stay there, holding her in my arms until she falls asleep.

***

Michael’s POV


“Can’t sleep?”

I yelp and nearly drop the juice onto the floor as Diane’s voice sounds behind me.

“Sorry,” she apologises as I press my free hand to my heart. Jesus.

“No, it’s ok. I probably shouldn’t have been down here anyway. I just got thirsty and thought I’d have a juice.”

“If you’re thirsty Michael, then I’d say you should have been down here getting a juice. This is your house too.”

I have no response to that, so I simply pour myself the glass of juice that I came here for.

“You know what I feel like?” Diane asks.

I shake my head after chugging half the glass, wanting to have my juice then get the hell out of here. I always feel awkward in these situations with Diane. I never know what she wants from me.

“Ice cream.” She crosses over to the freezer and pulls outs a carton of chocolate before grabbing two bowls. “Why don’t you sit with me and we’ll have some?”

I hesitate, but then notice that she’s already started spooning it into the two bowls. It looks like I don’t have a choice, so I silently take a seat at her kitchen table.

She places the bowl in front of me and flicks on the kitchen light before sitting across from me.

“I feel like we never get to talk,” she says, a warm smile on her face. “How’s college going for you?”

“It’s a little easier now that I don’t have to work three jobs,” I concede, pushing my ice cream around my bowl with my spoon.

“What are your classes like? Do you like them all?”

“Most of them are ok,” I grunt, then amend myself when I see her smile fade a little. I don’t know why, but I feel like I should try harder with her. She seems genuine and I don’t like the idea of hurting her when she’s been so wonderful to Tia and I suppose, to me as well. “I mean, I don’t like the history of art class.”

Diane looks so delighted by my actual attempt at conversation that I instantly feel awful about every time I’ve ever been monosyllabic in her presence. If all she wants is an occasional chat then I guess I can try and accommodate that, no matter how awkward it is for me.

“What’s wrong with the history of art class?”

I shrug, then try and verbalise why I don’t like it. I’ve never had many people care before, so it’s an odd sensation for me. “Art is such a broad genre that I feel like we’re only getting the bare minimum that we could be learning about. They should really break it down into different genres, like, the history of impressionism and the history of pop art. That way I’d probably get more out of it. Plus, the assignment they’ve given us is enormous. Essays have never really been my thing.”

I am horrified at the amount my tongue has run away with itself. It’s so easy to say more than I need to in front of Diane, especially because she seems so interested. I’d better keep an eye on what I say from now on.

“If you need help, I know that Phillip would help you with your essay. He was always good at writing essays.”

I smile half-heartedly at her and know that that is one offer I will never take up. To have my art teacher look at the crap I produce is one thing, but to have Phillip Evans laugh at me is entirely another.

I scoop up a spoonful of melted ice cream and shovel it into my mouth in an effort to silence the conversation. If I’m eating then maybe we won’t have to talk.

“Are you glad that Meg’s no longer in your life?”

I cough and splutter at the totally unprecedented mention of my biological mother. I thought we all had a deal. No one mentions her.

Diane thumps me on the back and I eventually recover my composure once the ice cream resurfaces from my windpipe.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine,” I mutter, pissed off that she had to mention my mother’s name in a perfectly fine conversation.

“I was just wondering because I’d imagine it must be a real relief never having to go back there ever again.”

I don’t respond, I merely toy with my ice cream some more, feeling sulky and irritated at her continuation of this topic. Clearly I don’t want to talk about it.

Diane’s voice drops even softer and I can see her trying to catch my eye. I keep my gaze directed at the table. “It must have been really hard going back there every week, back to that place where she abused you and neglected you.”

“I dealt,” I grunt.

“But you shouldn’t have had to, Michael. I’m so furious that she took advantage of you that way.”

I feel conflicted as I take in her words. A part of me that I’d shut away for years yearns for her to tell me more about how angry she is over Meg’s behaviour towards me, but the other half just wants to get the hell away from Diane and this conversation.

“Yeah well,” I mutter, not really sure what to say. “What did you expect from her, really?”

“I expect what I would expect from any mother,” she fumes. “I expect her to be willing to die for her children, not blackmail them for drug money. Or turn tricks in front of them. Or put them in danger in any way.”

“You’re making too big of a deal out of this. I was fine,” I tell her, hoping like hell she’ll give it a rest.

Her eyes shine with unshed tears as she looks at me from across the table. “You were just a little boy, Michael. You were just a scared, lonely little boy with no one to talk to. No one who would listen to you or give you the time of the day. The house was always filled with strange violent men and your mother was either doped or high. You must have been so scared and lonely.”

Her soft tone pierces straight into my chest and I feel my eyes smart from the tears that want to escape. Why couldn’t my own mother speak to me that way?

Diane makes me ache for things I didn’t even know I wanted.

“I gotta go.” I stand up in a rush and head for the kitchen door. I can’t take any more of this.

“Michael,” Diane calls out, her voice imploring me to stay. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you, I just want-”

“You just want what?!” I demand, spinning to face her. “What do you want? I don’t know what you want from me!” I exclaim harshly.

“I just want to know you, Michael,” Diane whispers, a sharp contrast to my raised voice. “I want to know you because you’re an incredible young man. I’m proud that you’re my children’s brother.”

The burn behind my eyes intensifies at her words. “How can you be proud of me? You don’t even know me.”

“I know enough to be proud of you, Michael. You’ve taken care of yourself all your life, taken in your baby sister and made a life for her. You’re a good man with a good heart and there is nothing you could ever do or say that would change my mind about you.”

I stare at her from across the room and look for the signs of deceit that should be written all across her. I’m good at knowing when people are lying, but I’m having a hard time seeing any of the signs on Diane.

My head spins at the idea of her having any sort of genuine pride in me and I immediately reject the idea. People like her don’t respect people like me, let alone feel proud of them.

“I gotta get out of here,” I mumble, grabbing my car keys from the hallway hook and rushing out of the house.

“Michael, wait!” Diane calls after me, but I’m already gone.

***
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Re: Hiding Beneath (AU, M/L, ADULT) Pt 49, 18th March 12

Postby Rowedog » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:59 am

Check this bizness out biatches! I’m updating within a month! Woop Woop! Usually this is the space where I’d apologise for taking so long, but I haven’t so I’m not gunna. But now I have no idea what to fill this space with. Conundrum.

This update moves things along quite a bit actually, which I’m pleased about. Thank you for remembering this fic even when I take like 8 months to do update it. I’m not worthy. Thank you.

IT’S THE BIG 5-0!!!! WOOHOOO! (Good god, I thought this fic would be finished 25 parts ago.)

Ellie
BB
Natalie36
Eve
Cardinal
Novy
Roswell_Dreamer
Stefuh
Keepsmiling7
Discospider
Drogyn
SmileeUK


Part Fifty

‘Oh but that one night
Was more than just right
I didn't leave you cause I was all through
Oh I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell
Because I really fell for you
Oh I swear to you I'll be there for you
This is not a drive by

Oh but that one night
Is still the highlight
I didn't need you until I came to
And I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell
Because I really fell for you’
Drive By by Train


***

Michael’s POV


What in the fucking hell am I doing here?

“So you ran?” queries David thoughtfully, looking at me with his goddamn piercing gaze. Stop reading my thoughts you bastard. I don’t like being looked at like a specimen under a miscroscope.

“Yes,” I grunt. “What else was I fucking supposed to do? How did she expect me to react to that?”

“I suspect that Diane hoped to form an emotional connection with you.”

“Thank you for the guilt trip,” I return snidely.

David pins me with one of his trademark stares and I squirm in my seat. “I’m not guilt tripping you, Michael. I was answering your question. Diane is going to want to form an emotional bond with you, it’s just the way that she is. However, I do believe she expected too much of you too soon.”

“So what do I do?” I ask hastily, sitting forward in my chair. “What the hell do I do when I walk back in there?”

“I’m not here to tell you what to do, Michael. I’m not a magic fixer who will lead you through all life’s problems. I am here as a sounding board for you to figure out your own solutions.”

I heave a pissed off groan and roll my eyes. Whatever. “I guess my first option is to pretend that it never happened and hope that she does too.”

“And if she doesn’t pretend that it doesn’t happen? What will you do then?”

I shrug and lean back into my chair. “I guess I could tell her that I don’t want to talk about it.”

“And if she doesn’t accept that?” he persists.

“I suppose I’ll just tell her that I’m not ready to talk about it and ask for her to respect that.”

“Good choice,” murmurs David with a slight nod of his head. “Now let’s talk about why you freaked out so much.”

I pause for a long moment, trying to figure out how to explain it. “I’ve lived my life based on the understanding that people like Diane and Philip Evans don’t give two shits about people like me. A whole life’s worth of experience has taught me that. And every time they do something that flies in the face of that understanding, it feels like…”

When I can’t finish off my sentence, David finishes it for me. “Like your whole understanding of the world is coming into question. They make you question what you perceive to be basic truths about yourself. And if you could be wrong about that, what else could you be wrong about? By showing you that they care, they’re shaking the very foundations of your world and terrifying the hell out of you.”

My eyes snap up to his and I feel this enormous sense of relief wash over me. Not just because he put something into words that I could barely understand, but also because he gets it. He understands what I’m feeling. There’s not judgement in his tone, no telling me that I’m being stupid and overreacting. Just understanding and acceptance.

“Thank you.”

David smiles wryly at me. “It’s a common problem, Michael. You’re hardly the first patient I’ve had with concerns like the ones you have.”

My curiosity gets the better of me. “How do they get past it?”

“Time,” David answers succinctly. “Time and a bit of bravery.”

“Bravery?” I question.

“What I’m going to ask you to do, Michael, is not for the faint of heart.”

“What’s that?” I ask warily.

David smiles at me, kindness in his eyes. “I’m asking you to be vulnerable.”

“Be vulnerable?” I echo, trying to understand what he’s telling me.

“I’m asking you to share a piece of yourself with Diane and Philip. Doesn’t have to be huge, but maybe something that you’ve never told anyone before. Maybe an unrealised dream or a hope for the future.”

“You mean, tell them something that they could possibly use against me or laugh at me for?” I ask, giving him my most incredulous expression yet.

“Exactly,” says David, seemingly getting very excited now. “Michael, if you share something with them, something personal, what you’re doing is attempting to make a true human connection. You’ve done it with Maria, but she was a peer, not a well to do lawyer or business woman. By putting yourself out there, you’re opening yourself up to a world you’ve never encountered before.”

“A world where they could laugh at me. Ridicule me.”

“And there’s the rub,” David replies, looking at me over his glasses. “By opening yourself up for the amazing parts in life, you also open yourself up to hurt. So, you have a choice. You can stay back in your Michael shell, where it’s nice and safe and you can’t get hurt. Or you can open yourself up to other people and see what you’re missing out on.”

I take a long moment to mull over David’s words before I speak again. “And if I wanted to do that – open myself up to the world and all that crap – how would I go about it?”

David beams at me with something like pride in his eyes. “You would start by something small. Every journey starts with the first step.”

“Enough with the lame metaphors, Doc.”

“Fair enough,” David chuckles. “But honestly, all you’d need to do is to reveal something small about yourself. Maybe a wish you had as a child or your plans for the future and gauge their reactions. If they respond well to it; not ridiculing you or damning you for it, then reveal something a little bigger next time.”

Just the thought fills me with dread. Feelings and thoughts aren’t meant to be shared, they’re for hiding, but David seems to know what he’s talking about, so I suppose I could give it a try.

“It’s not going to be easy, Michael, but by doing this you’re doing yourself a far greater service than you can imagine.”

“Ok,” I tell him, making up my resolve to give it a try. “Ok.”

***

Isabel’s POV


“I just don’t get why I have to be here,” I complain, my fingers digging into the arms of my chair. My heart is pounding rapidly, but I’m trying to maintain my composure outwardly. This is the most exposing, horrible thing I’ve ever done. I hate therapy on a normal day, but with Alex here, it’s ten times worse.

Alex sighs and turns to me, “Isabel, you know why you’re here.”

“No, I don’t,” I manage to keep myself from screaming through gritted teeth. “Why don’t you explain it to me?”

“You’re here because you have problems,” Alex tells me gently, inspiring more rage from me.

“I’m not insane, Alex!”

“I never said you were,” Alex retorts, looking at me like I have gone insane. “But you have to admit that bawling your eyes out after trying to seduce your boyfriend is not a normal response.”

His words sting in a way I never knew possible. How can one person have so much power to hurt me? “Why are you even here if I’m so fucked up?”

Alex drops his gaze to the floor and sighs sadly. “You still don’t get it, do you?

“Get what?” I spit out, wishing that I was anywhere but here. I know that I promised Alex that I’d try to get better, but I just can’t seem to find it in me to actually do it. This is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. It’s like standing naked in front of the world as they pick holes in you.

“You think that all of this is for me? That I’m fixing my broken girlfriend so that I can be happy?”

“Aren’t you?” I ask with genuine confusion.

He shakes his head sadly and I can see that the sadness in his eyes is genuine. “Isabel, this has never been about me and what I need. This is about you and the way you feel. I want you to be happy and I know that you aren’t. I’m doing the only thing I can think of to make you happy because I can’t stand to see you hurting like this.”

His words stop me in my tracks. I have absolutely no response to that.

“I know it’s scary, Isabel, but at some point you have to realise that even with all the fear and uncertainty, this has still got to be better than living in the purgatory you’re currently in.”

A tear rolls down my cheek and for the first time I see my future and where it’s headed if I don’t stop sabotaging myself. Alex will get fed up of me pushing him away and leave, I’ll never have a normal relationship with anyone and I’ll always be ruled by my past. It’s a frightening realisation.

Last session, Alex asked me to get better for him, but now… I’m doing it for me. I can’t go through life like that and I refuse to be a victim anymore.

And that’s what I tell them. I tell Alex and David – who has been silently watching our exchange for the past five minutes – that I’m over feeling like this and now I’m going to fight it.

“Bravo,” says David with a genuine smile on his face. “Bravo.”

***

Michael’s POV


So far, so good. My initial interaction with Diane upon re-entering the house has been her apologising and me telling her to forget about it. We are now pretending that it never happened. Sweet.

We’re all sitting in the living room watching some dopey fucking romance movie that beggars belief, when Max throws this comment in, “This movie sucks more balls than Paris Hilton.”

As Diane and Philip predictably splutter and chastise him, Isabel and I crack up and share a knowing look. Max is totally right. And if Max, the sensitive romance king is saying it, then this movie has to be the worst.

“At this point the only character I’m invested in is their dog,” Isabel remarks. “I would like to see some more of their dog.”

“It’s a pretty sweet dog,” Max agrees, ignoring his parents who are still giving him a talking to. “When I am officially an adult, I am buying myself a Great Dane. I will call him Dongasaurus and we will have adventures.”

“What is with you today, Max?” asks Diane, exasperation written clearly across her face. “You’re acting all sorts of insane.”

Max shrugs, an irrepressible smile on his face. “I dunno, I’m just… really happy.”

Diane’s exasperation quickly turns to joy, relief and some other chick emotion that I’m not following. Oh god, she’s even tearing up.

“I am so getting a cocker spaniel puppy when I’m older,” Isabel informs us. “It’s gonna be bitchin’.”

“I bet it won’t have a cool name like mine,” Max says with a grin. “My puppy will be the most tricked out playa in all the land.”

“I always wanted a puppy,” I venture, praying like fuck that David’s right about opening up to this family. I’ve never told anyone this. “But Hank hated them and they’re expensive to keep.”

I glance around and am relieved to see that I’m not treated with derisive comments or eye rolls.

“We’ve always had dogs,” Philip tells me, continuing on the conversation, much to my relief. “Unfortunately our last dog, May, died sometime last year. But I think it’s good for children to grow up with pets, so it’s sad you never got to experience that.”

“How old was May?” Max asks, drawing them away onto a safer topic as I consider how that went. Having a puppy was an enormous wish of mine back when I was younger. From the ages of 5 through to 12, I never wanted anything more. Just a dog that I could love and that could love me back.

I told the Evans family a secret desire that I’d had as a child and they didn’t show any scorn at all. They’d merely accepted and understood it. David was right.

Well… I’ll be damned.

***

Max’s POV


“Hey you,” I exclaim happily as I notice my girlfriend standing in my doorway. I’ve been reading comic books on my bed for the past half an hour, so I have no idea how long she’s been standing there for.

“Hey,” she says, wrapping her arms around my neck and drawing me in for a kiss. I think that in the future all greetings between Liz and I should be exactly like that.

“How’s things with your parents?” I ask, trying not shiver as her hands run their way down my neck to rest on my chest.

She smiles up at me. “All fixed. We had a family meeting over why we all blew up over something as trivial as washing the dishes. Turns out Mom felt unappreciated and taken for granted, which is why she took a stand against doing them. Dad was stressed out because of the orthodontists convention that’s coming up and needed to work.”

“And you?”

“I was just being an obnoxious teen who couldn’t see the point in washing dishes for a meal that she hadn’t even attended,” she replies, a cute smile on her face. “Which is why we’ve drawn up a roster to see who does the dishes on which nights.”

“Smart,” I comment, as my hands trace lightly up and down her spine.

“What can I say? I come from good genes,” she replies rather breathily as my hands work my way down her back to rest lightly against the curve of her butt.

“Speaking of jeans,” I intone naughtily, flashing a look down at her lower half. “Let’s see if we can’t get those off of you.”

She squeals as I haul her up onto my shoulder and unceremoniously dump her onto the bed.

“Max!” she shrieks, as I practically leap onto her and begin to kiss the curve of her neck. “Your parents!”

I shake my head, not deterred from my initial task. “No, I don’t think we’ll invite them again. Things got a bit weird last time.”

She throws back her head and laughs heartily at my disgusting insinuation. “No, you fool! Where are they? Is there any chance of them busting us?”

I waggle my eyebrows at her. “Nope, just me and the sister currently in residence. And I don’t care if she discovers us, it’s nothing a few years of therapy won’t fix.”

Her giggling comes back with a vengeance and I delight in the sound. I raise my head from her collarbone and wink at her. “Now… let’s get icky.”

Her laughter fills the room again and I make it my mission to turn her giggles into moans.

Mission accomplished.

***


I’ve discovered that the second best feeling in the world is holding Liz Parker in my arms after we’ve made love. I’m sure your imagination can come up with the feeling that trumps this one.

I press my lips to the side of her head as she yawns lazily and snuggles into my chest.

“I feel like a horny teenager, just stealing time with you whenever our parents aren’t looking,” I admit to her.

She raises her head and looks at me quizzically. “Max… we are horny teenagers who steal time whenever our parents are looking.”

“We’re so much more than that, though,” I remind her. “This isn’t hormones, or puppy love. This is the real thing.”

A grin spreads across her face and her eyes sparkle as she takes that in. Leaning in, she kisses me slowly and softly and I savour the moment, just breathe it in.

That is until my brother bursts into my room like a complete bumblefuck.

“Yo dude, I-” Michael lets off a not so manly squeal as Liz freezes in horror. She’s covered by the bed sheets, but this is still a very awkward moment.

Clamping his eyes shut, Michael backs out of the room, bumping into shit and muttering as he goes. “Eyes. Burning. Can’t unsee. Oh god, therapy. Need brain bleach.”

He slams the door shut behind him and Liz smiles at me sheepishly. “I think that’s my cue to leave.”

“Don’t leave because of Michael,” I groan. “Stay to piss him off.”

Liz lets out a snort and rolls her eyes at me as she begins pulling her clothes back on. “You like Michael, remember?”

“I did before he cockblocked me,” I mutter, pouting at the impression Liz left in the bed sheets.

“Max, we already made love. Michael didn’t cockblock you.”

I raise an eyebrow archly at her. “I’ll have you know I was just recharging for a repeat performance.”

Liz smiles at me and places her hand on my cheek. “I have work in half an hour, so those plans would have been shelved anyway.”

“Fine,” I groan, pulling on my boxer shorts as I grumble under my breath.

“That’s my boy,” she tells me, kissing me once more. “Now go and apologise to Michael for traumatising him.”

She heads down the stairs with a wave and I turn towards Michael’s room with a shudder. This is going to be fun.

***

Michael’s POV


“Hey, what’d David say?” I ask eagerly as Maria trudges wearily in through the door. I’ve been in her room for the better part of half an hour just waiting for her to come back. I’ve also been getting a little impatient, but that’s neither here nor there.

“Something about depression and abandonment issues stemming from my father leaving. He said that I don’t trust the people that I care about and I’m punishing you for leaving me, which is why I’ve been pushing you away and making you jump through hoops to prove yourself to me now.” Maria takes a deep, weary sigh and sits down on the bed next to me. After a moment, she speaks again. “I’m sorry.”

I shake my head and take her hand in mine as I stare at my shoes. “Don’t be. We’ve both made a fucking mess of this relationship. Let’s not point fingers or assign blame anymore.”

Maria looks across at me, her gaze showing neither censure nor accusation, but rather simple query. “Do you really think that our relationship is fixable?”

“It has to be,” I tell her, bringing me gaze up from my shoelaces to meet her inquiring eyes. “Because I don’t think I can live without you.”

Tears well up in Maria’s eyes and she leans into me, bringing her arms up and around my neck. My arms came around her automatically. Naturally.

“I’ve missed you,” she whispers.

I know that she isn’t just talking about the break up, but the ensuing time that we’ve been together after the break up as well. “I’ve missed you too.”

“So,” she sniffles, wiping her wet cheeks on her sleeve as she pulls away to stare at me. “How are we going to do this?”

“What did David suggest?” I ask, knowing that his form of fixing things in the past has meant celibacy.

“We take things slow. Go on dates like we’re just starting out and re-establish our trust. Which of course means no sex for a while.”

“Picked it,” I mutter, preparing myself mentally for the long wait.

“Pardon?” asks Maria.

I smile at her, feeling hopeful as I see her smile tentatively back at me. “Let’s do this. Are you free for a date tomorrow night?”

Maria smiles at me, her eyes showing what look to be the beginnings of hope. “Let me check my schedule. Well, would you look at that? I’m free.”

“Wonderful,” I whisper as I beam at her.

***

Max’s POV


“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” screams a tiny person, perforating my ear drum.

“SHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSH!” Michael yells back just as loudly, though it’s hard to take him seriously when he’s grinning like that. He looks so dumb. I wonder if I look like that when I think about Liz the way that he’s thinking about Maria. I decide that I probably do.

“You and Mawia are back togeva!” Tia shrieks, jumping up and down on the spot. Michael is too pleased about the turn of events to be anything but pleased with Tia’s enthusiasm. I, on the other hand, value my hearing.

“You’re insane,” I tell her as I pull her into my lap.

She squirms and manages to evade my grasp long enough to jump down from the couch. “I dotta go write a letta to the tooth faiwy!”

This time both Michael and I are wearing matching expressions of confusion.

“What?” asks Michael.

“I asked the tooth faiwy if you and Mawia could det back togeva instead of gibing me money. But she gave me money and got you back togeva! I hab to go thank her!” she calls as she runs up to her room.

“Riiiiiight,” drawls Michael. “The tooth fairy got us back together.”

“She’s a talented lady,” I inform him, noting that the grin on his face seems to be permanently stuck there. It’s nice to see him do something other than scowl. It looks good on him.

“So,” says Isabel, walking down the stairs slowly. “I happen to have heard from a little birdy that you and Maria are back together.”

“Tia was pretty loud,” Michael replies, scratching the back of his neck sheepishly, still with that grin on his face.

“Well yeah, but I actually just off the phone with Maria,” Isabel informs him, pulling him into a hug. He stiffens in surprise but returns her hug.

“Congratulations,” she whispers. “I knew it would work out.”

“He shares genes with me,” I tell them both, trying to hide my grin. “Of course she’d come back to him.”

“Yeah, you’re a real lady killer, Max,” Michael snorts.

“Speaking of which,” Isabel begins, a dangerous look in her eye. “If your girlfriend ever has to tell me that it’s safe to come back inside the house again, I am going to lop off your man bits.”

“How much did you hear?” I ask her with a grimace.

“Enough to know that things were going to get ugly if I stayed in my room. WHICH might I remind you, is right next to yours.”

“Sorry,” I reply with a grin. I’m not really sorry though and Iz can tell.

“Either give me a real warning next time, or keep it in your pants, ok?”

“Aye aye, Cap’n!” I tell her with a mock salute.

“Don’t stand to attention!” Michael mock whispers to me. “It’s what got you in this mess to begin with.”

As Michael and I crack up, Isabel tries really hard not to smile too, but fails miserably. We laugh together until our sides ache and we can’t breathe.

Tia soon interrupts us and shows us the card she made for the tooth fairy. I smile as I look around at my newly extended family and wonder if I would appreciate this moment so much if we’d always been this happy.

***
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