Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) COMPLETE, 01/20/16

Fics using the characters from Roswell, but where the plot does not have anything to do with aliens, nor are any of the characters "not of this Earth."

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Re: Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 78, 09/26/1

Post by Eva » Mon Sep 28, 2015 3:22 pm

Liz's being pregnant can turn this story as nothing before. 'Cause it's true what Isabel's thing: Max is unpredictable but his reactions on this news will change everything. That's the only for sure at this moment.

Like always he acted like a jerk but somehow I was glad it was only her ring he took. As sad as that is, I was imagining far worse things.
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Part 79

Post by April » Sat Oct 03, 2015 11:46 am

Carolyn: jerk.......why don't you leave Maria, Dylan and Michael alone?
Max is an addict . . . and right now, he's addicted to the idea of causing problems for Michael and Maria. It's all fueled by his anger, but is it more of an anger towards them, or towards himself?
Now I am really worried for Liz. She had accepted that he was complicated with a complicated past, but now I wonder about his reactions to Liz's news.
Liz's whole world has changed very dramatically within the past few days. Poor girl.

I can't believe Maria let Max take a foot inside that house and then didn't see him OUT the door when she did. Rookie mistake Maria....
She thought she'd put him in his place, and for a moment, it seemed like she had. But . . . by taking her ring, Max found a way to have the last word without actually saying anything.
and Liz..PREGNANT!! OMG!! I have to be honest, I didn't see that one coming at all!
Cool, I'm glad I could surprise you then!
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out!
I hope so! We are definitely getting closer to the end here.

Liz's being pregnant can turn this story as nothing before. 'Cause it's true what Isabel's thing: Max is unpredictable but his reactions on this news will change everything. That's the only for sure at this moment.
This is a huge turning point for Liz, but probably an even bigger turning point for Max. Potentially. This news is going to have a major effect on him.
Like always he acted like a jerk but somehow I was glad it was only her ring he took. As sad as that is, I was imagining far worse things.
Yeah, I guess it could have been worse. But this is still going to be pretty heartbreaking for Maria.

Thanks for reading and leaving feedback! I appreciate it a lot!

I'm making another music suggestion today: "Light Through the Branches" by Celeste Lear, which I think is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard in my life. It's short but so beautiful. Give it a listen when you see :| if you'd like.

Part 79

Michael literally felt exhausted when he got home that night. Even though helping Kyle set up for Tess’s proposal tomorrow hadn’t involved any heavy lifting, it had been absolutely painstaking trying to get it exactly right. Every time he’d thought they were done, Kyle would notice something that wasn’t quite right, and they’d have to fix it. It had been more mentally tiring than anything, and mental workouts always drained Michael more than physical ones. Add in the fact that he never had gotten to go lie down in the nurse’s station today, and he felt like he could crash out any second.

When he walked in the door, though, it was clear that rest and relaxation would not be a possibility tonight. Tina practically ambushed him, looking hysterical. “Oh my god,” she exclaimed. “Thank God you’re here.”

“Why? What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Maria dropped her ring down the sink!”

“What?” Before he even had time to comprehend that, his mom came out of the garage carrying a crusty pipe wrench and multi-grips.

“Oh, good, you’re home,” she said, handing him the tools. “Maybe you can fix this. I was gonna try myself, but that’s probably not a good idea.”

“Where’s Maria?” he asked.

“She’s upstairs.”

He went up to his bedroom, sure that he was going to find his girlfriend in a state of misery. And indeed, he did. She was sitting on the floor, hunched over the bed, sobbing hysterically.

“Hey,” he said, setting the tools down on his desk. “You alright?”

“No,” she whimpered, not even looking at him.

He sat down beside her, rubbing her back. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” she cried. “I lost my engagement ring, Michael. Who does that?”

“Uh, a lot of people.” Hell, half the romantic comedies ever made involved a scene where the dude plumbered up and retrieved his girl’s ring for her. Which was exactly what he hoped to be able to do.

“But how could I let this happen?” she fretted. “I mean, I don’t even understand . . .”

“Did you see it go down?” he asked.

“No. But I set it down on the sink when I got in the shower, and I thought I set it down far enough away, but apparently not. Or . . . I don’t know, maybe I accidentally knocked it in the sink when I was brushing my teeth. All I know is, when I was ready to put it back on, it wasn’t there.” Her eyes welled up with fresh tears, most of which bubbled over without resistance. “I’m so sorry.”

“No, you don’t have to apologize,” he said.

“But you spent so much money on it--”

“I didn’t spend that much money,” he lied. Luckily he’d been able to talk the seller down to something below the thousand dollar mark. But just barely.

“You spent more than you should’ve,” she kept on, “and it was so nice, and it fit so perfectly, and now I just lost it! God, I’m so stupid. What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you. This happens all the time,” he assured her. He didn’t want to freak out, because that would just make this worse for her. But inside, he was panicking a little bit. He couldn’t afford another ring like this. Shit, he couldn’t even afford this ring. They really needed to get it back.

“Come on,” he stood up and held out his hand.

She gave him a confused look. “What?”

“We’re gonna go see if we can get it back. It’s probably still stuck down there.”

She shook her head, taking his hand and letting him help her up anyway. “I don’t think so. I already put a wire hanger down the sink. I didn’t get anything.”

“It’s probably down too low,” he speculated, though he really had no idea. Pipes, plumbing . . . complete unknown to him. But he was willing to give it a shot. He picked up the pipe wrench again and said, “Come on.”

Wiping tears from her cheeks, she followed him into the bathroom, where Tina was standing over the sink, bending down so she could peer closer at the drain.

“Don’t turn the water on,” he cautioned. Didn’t take a plumbing genius to know that the best chance of getting this ring back was to not wash it down any further.

“I won’t,” she said.

“See, I set it right here,” Maria said, touching an empty spot on the sink. Indeed, it was a good two to three inches away from the edge, so her conclusion about accidentally knocking it in while brushing her teeth was more than likely accurate.

“Okay,” he said, “Teenie, will you go get me a bucket or a pan or something?”

“Sure.” She scampered out of the bathroom and downstairs.

“Is it gonna get gross?” Maria asked.

“Yeah, most likely. You ever cleaned hair out of a sink or a shower drain?”

She made a face of disgust. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine.” He got down on his hands and knees and pulled open the lower cabinets, taking out all the towels they kept stashed there.

“Do you think I knocked it in?” she asked, her voice hoarse from all the crying.

“Uh . . . yeah, probably.”

She grunted sadly. “Like an idiot.”

“Would you stop sayin’ that?” He surveyed the pipes, trying to figure out if he knew anything about this. The pipe was bent in a U-shape. He’d seen enough movies to know that you had to take part of it out, unscrew it and hope to God the ring was still in there.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” she asked.

“Not really,” he confessed.

“Would your dad know?”

“Maybe. Is he home?”

She shook her head.

Well, he sure as hell wasn’t going to wait. These days, his dad could be gone for days at a time.

When Tina came back, she brought one of their largest baking pans with her. “Will this work?” she asked.

“Yeah, thanks.” He positioned the pan under the curved pipe, slid his torso a bit further underneath the sink, and tried to fit the wrench onto the nuts keeping the thing connected. It might have been an adjustable wrench at one time, but nowadays, it was just too old to get any tighter. He tossed it aside, figuring he wouldn’t need it anyway. These were just plastic nuts. He could unscrew them by hand.

“Do you really think it’s still in there?” Maria asked doubtfully, squatting beside him.

“Yeah,” he said, focusing on what he was doing so he didn’t screw it up. “Has to be.”


Max sat in the dark in his bedroom that evening—except, was it really his room, or was it still technically the guest room? No, nothing was his anymore. If that room were his, he would have gotten rid of the whole floral motif a long time ago. He didn’t want anyone to know he was home, even though he was pretty sure no one else was home, either. So he kept the lights off. Plus, it felt good to be in the dark. Natural.

He twirled Maria’s ring around in between his fingers, examining it from every angle. It wasn’t heavy, and it wasn’t big, but it wasn’t a piece of junk, either. In fact, upon closer inspection, it was actually nicer than he’d originally perceived. The diamond, though it was small, was real. That much was obvious.

It had to be worth something. At least five-hundred dollars, maybe even seven-hundred or eight.

Max grinned mischievously as his mind conjured up his next move. As fun as it was to sit here with Maria’s engagement ring in hand, wouldn’t it be a hell of a lot better to be sitting there with money? Or better yet, spending it?


After no luck taking apart the pipes on his own, Michael broke down and called a plumber. Unfortunately, the only one who agreed to come that night was one who went by the jovial nickname “Dan the Man.” The nickname didn’t match the service, though. Dan was a grump, and judging by the slew of swears leaving his mouth, he wasn’t having much luck.

Michael eventually left him alone and went downstairs to check up on Maria. She was sitting at the kitchen table with the pan of gunk in front of her, sifting through it with a fork no one would ever want to use again. She wasn’t really looking, though; she’d already looked. Nothing there.

“That stuff’s gross,” he said, sitting down beside her.

She was too morose to even respond.

“I mean, it’s really gross,” he emphasized. “I don’t know how you’re even sittin’ here with it. It makes me wanna puke.”

“I just keep hoping I missed it,” she said, pushing a glob of wet hair aside. “Like maybe it’s in here somewhere.”

He really wasn’t kidding about the whole puking thing. Sure, it was just hair and a little grimy water, but it was making him feel sick. He burped, holding one hand over his mouth to make sure nothing came out, and got up and met Dan as he was coming down the stairs.

“So who was workin’ on it before I got here?” Dan asked, pulling up his sagging jeans. “You?”

Michael nodded. “Yeah.”

“Ah, you shouldn’t have done that.”

“Why not?” Everything had seemed to go fine. No pipes had burst and nothing had flooded. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, but you should always call a plumber. Always.”

“Right, of course.” So you can get more money, he thought. “Find anything?”

“Nope,” Dan answered unsympathetically. “Hate to tell you, but that ring’s a goner.”

Michael sighed, having expected as much when his initial efforts hadn’t produced a result. “You sure?”

“Yeah. See, usually, about nine times out of ten, you’re able to get the ring back doin’ what you did. But sometimes, you just get unlucky. It’s gone. Somebody probably ran the water after it was already down there.”

Michael glanced back over his shoulder to make sure Maria wasn’t listening. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t. Hard to tell. Her eyes were still glazed over, and she was still sifting through the sink gunk. “She said she was brushing her teeth,” he mumbled.

“That’ll do it,” Dan said. “Well, sorry I couldn’t help you out.”

Michael shrugged. “It was worth a shot.”

“It was,” Dan agreed. “Alright, you wanna pay on the spot or have me send you a bill?”

“Bill?” Michael echoed. Here he’d been thinking there would only be a bill if the ring had been retrieved. “Well, how much is it?”

“Fifty bucks for the service call, ninety bucks for the work.”

Don’t make me do math, Michael thought, though he already knew the number was higher than what he wanted it to be.

“Hundred and forty bucks,” Dan recapped.

“A hundred and forty?” That seemed a little extreme. Feeling like an idiot, he called his mom over, since she usually dealt with this kind of thing and would have a better idea if they were getting ripped off. “Mom!”

She left Dylan in the living room to play with Tina and came towards them. “Yes?”

“It’s a hundred and forty bucks,” Michael informed her.

“Oh, goodness, that’s so high,” she agreed. “I don’t suppose there’s any way we could get you to lower it.”

“It’s nighttime,” Dan said. “I’m on my off-hours. I came over here out of the goodness of my heart.”

“But you didn’t even get the ring back,” Michael pointed out.

“No one’s gettin’ that ring back, kid.”

Michael groaned frustratedly. “I’m not a kid,” he muttered. But in a way, he kind of felt like one. Because looking at his mom, all he could do was communicate wordlessly how much he needed her help with this. He didn’t have the money to pay for this, and he didn’t want to have to go ask Maria.

His mother sighed in frustration and said to Dan, “Wait right here. I’ll go get my checkbook.”

Thanks, Mom, Michael thought, embarrassed.

Dan groaned as he sat down on the stairs, and as if to hold up the stereotype, his shirt rose up and his pants slid down, revealing a plumber’s crack that made Michael feel even more nauseous than the sink sewage had. He left the plumber there to sit on his own and went back into the kitchen with Maria. “Dan’s not the man,” he said quietly. “Couldn’t get the ring back.”

“I didn’t think so,” Maria muttered. “It’s gone.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it is.”

She set the fork down in the pan and started to touch her left ring finger, rubbing the spot where her ring would have been. “Do me a favor,” she said. “Don’t buy me a new one.”

He made a face. “What, are you kidding? Of course I’m gonna buy you a new one.” It wouldn’t be as fancy or expensive as this one had been, but he’d go out and get one this weekend so he could have it for her when she got back from her trip.

“No, don’t,” she insisted. “We’re gonna get married so soon here anyway. It’s not even worth it.”

He disagreed. But this was typical Maria, always willing to make sacrifices. He didn’t want her to have to do that so much anymore. “You’re worth it,” he told her, planting a kiss on top of her head. He picked up the disgusting pan and headed outside to toss the whole thing in the trash.


Every town, big or small, had a drug scene. Sometimes it was obvious, sometimes less so. But Max knew that if he just talked to the right people, he could figure out where that scene lay in Roswell, New Mexico, who he had to get to in order to get what he needed. Unfortunately, his connections in this town were extremely limited, due to the fact that he hadn’t been here long. Fortunately, however, Jesse Ramirez was one his connections. He’d always suspected the guy dabbled in deeper shit than porn, and as it turned out, he was right.

“Yeah, I know a guy,” Jesse said, leading him out onto his porch that evening. His roommates were once again going at it like bunnies, so it was almost impossible to talk in there without having to shout at each other.

“Reliable?” Max questioned.

Jesse chuckled. “As reliable as dealers come, I guess. I bought some stuff from him a couple months ago.”

“What’d you buy?” Max asked.

Jesse shrugged. “Just some pot, you know.”

The thought of wasting time getting high on weed was a joke to Max. He needed more. “He’s got more than that, though, right?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. What’re you lookin’ for?”

“Probably coke, mostly.”


“Yeah.” Cocaine had been his drug of choice since he’d first tried it. It gave him a feeling of supremacy, and he liked that.

“I thought you were clean, man,” Jesse remarked.

“I am,” Max insisted. “I’m not gonna use it. I just want it, just in case. Like a safety net.” Lately, he felt like he was venturing even closer and closer to the edge, and it was getting harder to ignore the pangs of longing. He wanted to know that, if he gave in, just for one night, he had a stash on hand and wouldn’t have to go looking for it. He would probably get himself in trouble if he went looking for it when he really wanted it. He’d be too worked up, too careless, just like last time.

“Well, whatever, man. I’ll text you his name and number. Actually, it’s more like a pseudonym. Nobody knows his real name. But he’s reliable. He’ll get you what you want.”

“Thanks. Just do me a favor: Don’t tell Isabel.” The last thing he needed was for anyone to find out about this, even his sister. She had his back, no doubt, but she was a girl, and girls talked. And according to her, she’d been talking to Liz, actually becoming friends with her against all odds. Liz couldn’t know anything about this. She wasn’t cut from this cloth.

“I won’t say anything,” Jesse assured him, already taking out his phone to send him the text. “Hey, listen, this guy . . . he’s kinda pricey, though. Just so you know. But then again, I guess money’s not an issue for you.”

Max took a thick stack of twenty-dollar bills out of his pocket, fanning them out for Jesse to see. “Not at all.”

Jesse’s eyes lit up. “Where’d you get all that cash, Max?”

He grinned, wishing he didn’t have to be vague. “I sold something.”


Here we go, Michael thought as he approached Tess at her locker the next morning, trying to look a little bit frantic. He had a very important job to do here, luring her into the gym. If he screwed this up, the whole proposal would be botched.

“Tess, what’re you doin’ out here?” he launched right in.

She gave him a confused look. “Putting my stuff in my locker. What’s it look like I’m doing?”

“You can’t be out here,” he told her. “There’s a pep rally.”

“What? There’s no pep rally,” she denied.

“Yeah, there is.”

“Michael, I would know if there’s a pep rally or not. I plan them.”

“They just announced it over the intercom, like five minutes ago.”

What?” she shrieked. “I was out in the parking lot. They wouldn’t . . .” Her eyes started to grow wide with alarm, and she dropped the books she’d been holding. “They didn’t even tell me!”

“You better get in the gym,” he advised. “People are startin’ to get antsy.”

She slammed her locker shut, but the fear of being caught off-guard with a pep rally seemed to have glued her feet in place, and Michael had to grab her arm and practically drag her down the hall. “No, this is wrong!” she screeched. “We can’t have a pep rally! I don’t even have my cheer uniform! Or my pom poms! Oh my god, I don’t have my pom poms!”

“Sure you do,” he said, motioning towards her chest.

“Oh, shut up, Michael!” she snapped, hitting his shoulder.

“Hurry it up.” He was about to just pick her up and throw her over his shoulder and carry her. Principal Forrester had apparently been very specific that they had until the bell rang to get this accomplished. Once first period started, it started. No waiting.

“What is this pep rally even for?” she wailed.

“State golf,” he lied off the top of his head.

“State golf?” she shrieked. “Who the hell cares about state golf?”

“You’re so peppy.”

“Okay!” She threw her arms down at her sides, stomping in front of him, and with a renewed sense of purpose, neared the gym doors. “Who do I have to talk to to put a stop to this?” Throwing open the doors, she entered in a huff. “Because this is not--” She came to an abrupt stop when she saw what awaited her, then squeaked out, “Happening.”

Michael stood back, surveying the set-up he’d been a part of. It was so ridiculously over-the-top, but so what Tess had probably wanted. The entire student body was flocking in, taking a seat on the bleachers as if they really were at a pep rally. Kyle stood in the middle of the gym floor, in a tux and everything, a small black box in his hand. Behind him, they had pulled out the visitor’s side bleachers and spelled out the words Marry Me? in pom poms. There had to be at least a thousand of them, all of which Kyle had ordered and paid for himself. On the sideline, the school’s pep band was set up and playing Magic’s hit song, “Rude,” which was one of Tess’s recent favorites. Beside them, her fellow cheerleaders, in uniform, stood and danced, three of them holding signs with the letters Y, E, and S on them.

Everyone started to clap and cheer for her when she came in, looking like she was hyperventilating but loving every second of this. She looked like she was saying “Oh my god!” over and over again, but it was too loud in there to hear her.

Michael took a seat on the lowest bleacher next to a couple freshmen who looked more interested in playing games on their phones than in watching what was happening, and he looked on as Tess walked out to the center of the court where Kyle was waiting for her. Girls screamed as if they were at a rock concert when he got down on one knee and opened the box. Tess started to cry, flitting her hands in front of her face, and once he got done saying whatever he was saying to her, she nodded vigorously and held out her hand. The crowd got even louder.

“Y-E-S!” the cheerleaders chanted for her, doing motions and holding up their signs. “She said yes! Kyle and Tess! We wish you the best!”

Michael shook his head, smiling despite how this whole thing reeked of a romantic comedy. He really was happy for his friends. Everyone seemed happy for them. Even most of the faculty had come in to watch the “it” couple officially get engaged.

After Kyle slid the ring onto her finger, he stood up, and Tess leapt into his arms. He twirled her around, and everyone stood up and clapped for them. Lots of people held up their phones and took pictures. There would be a massive amount of tweets about this one. Massive.


Oddly enough, ever since she’d discovered she was pregnant, Liz found work to be more bearable. It was just nice to have something to throw herself into. It was when her shift got over that she really started to feel emotional, that the stress of having to tell her parents started to weigh on her, even though it paled in comparison to the stress of having to tell Max.

She was glad when her father assigned her and Maria to do inventory of all the canned goods stacked in the backroom. It was a monotonous, mind-numbing task, but one that she really had to focus on. No time to be distracted while counting up items. Nope. No chance her mind could wander.

“Oh my gosh, they got engaged!” Maria exclaimed suddenly.

“What?” Even Liz had to admit, that news was a little bit distracting. “Who?”

“Tess and Kyle. Michael sent me a photo.” She held up her phone for Liz to see.

“Oh, yeah, I remember Kyle,” Liz said. “Are he and Michael still best friends?”

“Yeah, they’re going to college together.” She put her phone away, correcting herself. “I mean . . . they were.”

“Kyle was always nice,” Liz recalled. “Are you and Tess friends?”

“Yeah, I guess so, nowadays,” Maria replied. “She really didn’t like me at first. Plus, she and Isabel used to be best friends, so . . .”

“Oh, that’s right.” Liz returned her attention to the cans in front of her, trying to remember where she had left off. Cans of spaghetti sauce . . . was she at fifty or sixty? She decided to just split the difference and call it fifty-five. Good enough. Whatever the number was, they clearly needed more if the new supernova spaghetti continued selling the way it did.

“I guess I’ll have to talk to Tess, warn her about the dangers of setting her engagement ring down on the sink,” Maria said sadly.

“I feel so bad for you.” Liz gave her shoulder a quick squeeze. “It’s okay, though. Everyone knows what you and Michael have is special, with or without a ring.”

“Well, at least Tina gave me this as a replacement,” Maria said, holding up her left hand. “It’s a mood-ring.”

Liz gasped with delight. “A mood ring? I haven’t seen one of those in years.”

“Yeah, it’s kinda tight,” Maria said, turning it from side to side as much as she could. “Anyway, it was sweet of her.”

“She’s a sweet girl,” Liz agreed. “I met her when she came in here a few times. She always reminded me a lot of myself. Socially awkward, kind of a bookworm.”

“Well, these days she’s most concerned with being popular,” Maria informed her. “Still gets good grades, though.” She looked down at the ring and made a face. “Why is it orange?”

“What’s orange stand for?”

“Oh, wait, I have a cheat sheet.” Maria untucked a small slip of paper from the waistband of her apron and unfolded it. “Orange, orange,” she said, skimming the list. “Ah, okay. Orange is . . .” She frowned. “Stressed, nervous, confused, upset.”

Liz smiled sympathetically. “It’s just because of last night.”

“And tonight,” Maria added. “I’m leaving for the week.”

“Oh, right, the music thing.” Liz had only heard Maria humming, singing to herself a few times during work. From what she could tell, she had a nice voice. “That’ll be fun.”

“Hopefully,” Maria agreed, putting the mood ring cheat sheet back in her apron band again. She swayed over towards the door, looking through the tiny window back into the café itself.

“How we doin’ out there?” Liz asked. “Does Agnes need help?”

“Constantly,” Maria muttered. “Actually, there’s a guy sitting at the counter.”

“That’d be on me,” Liz said, handing Maria the clipboard she was using to jot down all the inventory notes. She was just about to walk out into the café when she caught sight of just who that guy was, and she quickly took a few steps back and grabbed the clipboard again. “Actually, I’m good back here. You should go wait on him.”

“He’s in your section,” Maria said, giving her a suspicious look. “Liz.”

Liz sighed. “Okay, that’s my ex-boyfriend Alex. I don’t even know what he’s doing here.”

“Alex,” Maria echoed. “Tutor Alex. Yeah, he’s in town a lot. I think he’s working with some of the high school kids this summer. He tutored Michael earlier this year.”

“I remember,” Liz said. “Can you please go wait on him? We ended things amicably enough, but . . . he’s still an ex.”

“Sorry,” Maria said. “My shift’s almost done. I gotta leave. It’s my last day working at the library today.”

“Last day?”

“Yeah. Michael’s mom thinks I’m gonna need to focus on the wedding and moving when I get back next week, so she said today’s my last day.”

So that means you’ll be moving soon, Liz thought. It wasn’t that she was eager to see her go. Maria was really nice, and they were getting along well, and her dad raved about what a good waitress she had become. But Max wouldn’t be so distracted once she was gone. He would be able to focus on her and . . . and their baby. She was going to tell him before then, though. She didn’t want to wait too long and then have him feel like she’d been keeping it a secret from him.

“Just go talk to him,” Maria suggested, removing her headband. “You’ve moved on; he’s probably moved on. It’ll be fine.”

“Right.” Liz gave her a small wave goodbye, then pushed through the swinging door and re-entered the café. She set the clipboard down underneath the counter and approached Alex, whose eyes were glued to his menu. “Hi,” she said softly.

He looked up at her and smiled. “Oh, hi, Liz.”

It was good to see him again. He was a really good guy. “How are you?” she asked.

“I’m good,” he replied. “I’m tutoring this summer.”

“That’s great,” she said. “I’m . . . working here, obviously.”

“I figured you would be,” he said. “Thought I’d stop in and see if you were here.”

“Well . . .” She flapped her arms against her sides. “Here I am.”

He set his menu down, looking her up and down. “You look different,” he remarked.

She tensed momentarily, panicked. Oh god, could he just tell? Could he just look at her and see that she was pregnant? Was she glowing? Worse, was she showing? No, she couldn’t be. Right?

“I got my hair cut, a little bit,” she said. “Just, like, an inch.”

“It looks nice,” he said. “So you made it through your freshman year.”

“I did.” She definitely wasn’t the same as when she had started, though. Definitely not. “Oh, hey, speaking of freshman year . . . did you know Isabel’s going to Princeton?”

“Yeah.” He stared at her curiously. “Are you and Isabel . . . friends now?”

“Not exactly, but we are getting to know each other,” she said, pleased with that development. It was never good to have enemies. “I’m actually dating her brother.”



He chuckled. “Small world.”

“Yeah, very.”

“Is she, uh . . .” He picked up the menu again, just flipping through the pages, not really looking at it. “Is she still dating that guy from the video?”

Jesse, she registered. Whatever this video was that people kept mentioning, she had absolutely no desire to see it. “Yeah,” she answered, knowing that it probably stung him a bit to hear that. “Yeah, she is.” Clearly he liked her. She’d been able to tell that much even back when they had been dating. “She’s mentioned you a few times.”

He grunted. “A few.”

“I think she misses you.”

“Well . . . that’s too bad.”

She nodded, sensing that he didn’t want to talk too much about her. Isabel seemed to be a sore subject for him. She must have done something to hurt his feelings, or to give him false hope. Liz didn’t want to do the same, so she changed the subject. “So, uh, the big news around here, apparently . . . your former study buddy Michael got engaged.”

Alex’s eyes widened in disbelief. “What?”

“Yeah. To Maria, obviously. And apparently he’s, like, trying to adopt her son.”


“I know, right? And Isabel’s friend Tess just got engaged, like, five minutes ago to Michael’s best friend Kyle.”

Wow,” Alex repeated. “What’s with the teenagers around here? Marriage, kids, all before they’re even in their twenties? What’s the rush? Get out there and live your life a little, be young, discover who you are and what you want out of life first.”

Liz stared at him, shifting uncomfortably. “Yeah,” she said, wondering if she should tell him about her . . . situation. About how she couldn’t be young anymore.

“I’m just skeptical, you know?” he said. “Best of luck to all of ‘em, but . . . sometimes when you’re this young, things just don’t work out the way you hope they will.”

She nodded slowly, warily, her stomach knotting up as she mulled that over. Alex didn’t mean to upset her when he said that—he didn’t know any better—but she was pretty sure that, if she was wearing a mood ring like the one Maria had on, it would be orange right now, too.


“Let me see the ring again.”

Tess held out her hand, starting to think that she should just walk with it out in front of her all day so every girl could see. “My gosh, ladies,” she said as a few of her sophomore cheerleaders accompanied her to class. “You act like you’ve never seen a ring before.”

“Tess, you’re engaged,” Annie, the likely future captain raved. “You’ve still got a year left of high school, and you’re engaged.”

Tess squealed, doing a little bounce of excitement. “Ooh, I know. It’s so perfect.”

“You’re so lucky,” Sierra, the likely not future captain, envied. “Kyle’s such a great guy, and you guys are, like, the perfect couple.”

“We are, aren’t we?” Tess agreed. The bell rang, and instead of taking a left for chemistry class, she veered to the right, towards the bathrooms.

“You’re gonna be late,” Annie said.

“Oh, please,” she scoffed. “Nobody’s gonna count me tardy today.” She flashed the ring one more time, then ducked into the bathroom while her friends tried to scamper into Mr. Frost’s classroom unnoticed.

She set her books down on the sink and looked at her reflection in the mirror, taking it all in. When she had woken up that morning, she had just been the normal Tess Harding. Now, she was the future Mrs. Valenti. Everyone had always known this day was coming, but now it was official. And the way Kyle had gone about the proposal had been absolutely perfect. She liked being the center of attention, and she liked elaborate things. His proposal had definitely measured up to her standards, exceeded them, even. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined him doing something so unique, so adorable. The pom poms alone must have taken hours.

She held her left hand up to her shoulder, sighing happily when she got to see her ring reflected in the mirror. It was absolutely perfect, too. She had basically hand-picked it a few months ago during a very deliberate shopping excursion to Zales Jewelry. It was a pricey little thing, and the diamond was very noticeable. Princess-cut, of course.

She loved it. Loved Kyle. Loved her whole life. No complaints.

One of the toilets flushed suddenly, alerting her to the fact that she wasn’t alone in there. She waited whoever was in there to come out, hoping it was another one of her cheerleaders, somebody she could show off her ring to. But unfortunately, it was only a former cheerleader. And a former best friend.

Isabel looked awful. A couple months ago, she never would have shown up to school looking like she was now, with makeup smeared, bags under her eyes, hair barely combed. She looked like she had just woken up this morning—probably in Jesse’s bed—and headed to school after rolling out of bed.

“Hey,” Isabel greeted softly.

“Hey,” Tess returned, wishing now that she hadn’t come in here. This was so awkward. When she and Isabel saw each other in the halls, it wasn’t so hard to ignore each other, because there were so many other people around. But here, there was no one. Just the two of them and a whole lot of uncomfortable silence.

Isabel stepped up to the adjacent sink and started washing her hands. “I saw the whole spectacle this morning,” she remarked.

Tess made a face. Of course she would refer to it that way, as a spectacle. “Root word of spectacular,” she mumbled.

“Yeah, it was great,” Isabel agreed. “Did you help him plan it?”

“No, of course not.”

“Oh, well . . . he really knows you well then.” Isabel shut off the water and used her elbow to press down the handle of the paper towel dispenser. She tore off a strip when it was long enough and dried her hands. “I’m really happy for you,” she said. “I know you’ve wanted this all year.”

Even though she was skeptical of this entire conversation, Tess said, “Thanks,” softly, wishing that they were still close, still best friends. Because the only thing that could have made this day more perfect was being able to celebrate it with Isabel. But that just wouldn’t happen anymore.

“Well, I gotta get to class,” Isabel said. “Later.”

“Bye.” Tess watched in the mirror as she left, wondering if that would be their last conversation. The school year was almost over. She had no plans to see the girl over the summer, and soon enough, she’d be off to Princeton, hopefully starting her life all over. When this wedding did eventually roll around, probably next summer, Isabel wouldn’t be a part of it. She wouldn’t be her maid of honor the way Tess had always envisioned. Oddly enough, Maria probably would be, because by then, they would be even better friends.

Where did all of this leave Isabel? Did it leave her . . . anywhere?

Tess let out a shaky breath, gathering up her books, reluctantly leaving the restroom. Losing Isabel’s friendship was hard and probably always would be, but she wasn’t about to let that ruin the greatest day of her life.


So this is what it must feel like to be Michael, Isabel thought as she roamed aimlessly down the hallways. They were mostly empty, except for a few other students who were as bored in the classroom as she was. This was what it was like to skip class and not care, to not worry about the consequences or stress about the trouble you could get into. She sort of hated that it had taken her this long to do this. But what she hated even more was that she didn’t have the guts to do what Michael really would have done and just leave the building altogether.

So she roamed, never once stopped by a teacher or an assistant or even a janitor. Nobody cared anymore. They were all just biding their time until the end of the year. None of it mattered.

She occupied herself by sending texts to Courtney, Eric, and Jesse. While she waited for them to text back, she thought of Tess, with that fancy new ring on her finger. She thought of the whole extravaganza this morning, how utterly schmaltzy the whole thing had been. But she couldn’t make fun of it, not when she secretly yearned for it. Didn’t everybody? Didn’t everybody ultimately want the kind of relationship Tess and Kyle had? It couldn’t be broken, never would be. They would always be together, and nothing would ever threaten that. That sense of security had to be nice.

The more she thought about them, the more upset she became. Honestly, she really was happy for them. Even though Tess was technically no longer her friend, she would always care about her, and she was glad she was getting what she wanted. But it hurt so much to not be getting the same thing for herself, to be nowhere close to it. Everyone thought she had things so great because she was heading off to Princeton in the fall, her dream school. But lately, her dreams were all just nightmares.

She pulled up a few photos to forward to Jesse, making sure no one was around who could look over her shoulder and see them. These were definitely the kind of photos no one else was allowed to see. She had taken them in the bathroom before Tess had come in. One was a close-up of her breasts, another of her own hands up under her skirt, two fingers slipped inside herself. Jesse had told her the other night that he was big on sexting and had encouraged her to send him a few pictures so he could start a personal collection.

But she had a better idea. Her face wasn’t in either of the pictures, so what harm could it do to make them a little more . . . public?

put these up on your website, she texted him. don’t tell anyone it’s me

She got a little rush as her thumb pressed the send button.


What was the point of study hall when you had nothing to study? For that matter, what was the point of school in general? All anyone was doing during sixth period that day was sitting around talking to each other. The teachers were glorified babysitters at this point. Michael fully planned on skipping school tomorrow and spending the whole day with Dylan instead. That would be more productive than this.

None of his friends were in his study hall, but Jase left his study hall, came in, and started talking Michael’s ear off. First about some new hot chick he claimed to be banging, and then some hot chick his sister was banging because she’d sworn off men altogether. Michael halfway listened, struggling to stay awake until Jase started talking about something else.

“Hey, man, so I was thinkin’, I oughta throw you and Kyle a party.”

“Me and Kyle,” he echoed. “Why?”

“You know, for gettin’ engaged and shit.”

“Engaged and shit.” Michael nodded slowly. Just the fact that Jase would phrase it that way made it painfully obvious he knew nothing about being engaged, that he had no idea what it felt like to be that in love with someone.

“It’ll be awesome,” Jase promised. “Just picture it: Good music, better beer, the best strippers.”

“What is this, like a bachelor party?”

Jase’s eyes widened excitedly. “Yeah, a bachelor party. My girlfriend could be one of the strippers.”

“Hey, listen, I got nothin’ against a good stripper,” Michael assured him, “but if I was gonna have a bachelor party . . . no offense, man, but you wouldn’t be the person to plan it.”

Jase frowned. “What do you mean?”

Michael sighed, figuring he’d just be honest with the guy. “Alright, I’m just gonna tell you this ‘cause we’re about to graduate, and then I’m gonna move away and probably never see you again.” He paused for dramatic effect, then just laid it out there for him. “You’re fuckin’ annoying.”

Instead of looking offended, Jase just admitted, “I’ve been told that.”

“I mean really annoying,” Michael emphasized. “I don’t even like you half the time.”

“That’s fine,” Jase said, undeterred. “Listen, if we’re all gonna go our separate ways come graduation day, all the more reason for us to have one last blowout. What do you say? Tomorrow night? Saturday?”

“No, I can’t. I gotta take care of Dylan while Maria’s away.”

“Oh.” Jase made a face. “That sucks.”

“No, it’s fine.” He didn’t mind. In fact, given the choice of spending an evening with Dylan or with Jase, he would’ve chosen Dylan every time.

“But . . . you pretty much can’t have fun anymore,” Jase said. “You’re all tied down.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Alright, maybe not, but . . . what about the party?”

Michael sighed, growing increasingly annoyed by the conversation. “Just throw Kyle the party. He’ll tell me all about it.”

“Oh, come on, you know you wanna be there,” Jase kept on. “You’re . . . you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Jase shrugged. “This whole domesticated thing . . . that’s not you. You’re the guy who came here and taught all the rest of us how to party. You’re a legend in this town.”

Michael rolled his eyes. Yeah, right. Kyle was the legend. He was the one people would look back on fondly when he on TV getting his first Super Bowl ring. He was the one people would remember for years to come.

“Just get your mom to watch the kid,” Jase suggested. “Easy.”

“No.” His mom did enough for him, probably too much. She wasn’t as vocal about it as his dad and Amy DeLuca were, but he knew she had a lot of the same concerns they did, concerns about whether or not he would be able to handle things out on his own. He wanted to use this as an opportunity to show her that he could, not to give extra fuel to her worries.

At last, Jase relented, though he didn’t look happy about it. “Whatever, man,” he said. “Your loss.”

Whatever, Michael agreed. At this point, he knew he wasn’t losing out on anything.


The house was quiet when Isabel got home that day. Too quiet. As if no one was there. She’d gone to Jesse’s for a little while—he couldn’t stop raving about the photos she’d sent them and how many people were already commenting about them on the website. They had proceeded to have sex, which had taken up quite a bit of time. It was nearly dinnertime now. Somebody should have been home.

She checked the refrigerator, where her mom often left memos even though texting was so much more efficient. No memo, but there was a half-crumpled Post-It note on the counter with an address and a name Isabel didn’t recognize. Her mom was probably showing a house to some potential buyers. During the summer, it wasn’t unusual for her to show a house every evening. She was usually working more than she was at home from May through August.

Max had made himself quite at home during the short time he’d been there, though, and usually, he was hanging around. She headed upstairs to the guest room, wondering if he was getting tired of the floral décor by now, wondering further if he might start adding a few personal touches to it soon. He seemed content to stay there all summer, and their mother was obviously happy to have him.

His curtains were pulled, so his room was pretty dark when she walked in. She didn’t bother turning on the light, though, because he was lying in bed, sprawled out on his stomach, snoring. Weird, she thought. Max had proven to be a heavy sleeper, and by no means was he an early riser, but this was an odd time of day for anyone to be sleeping.

“Max,” she said, reaching down to shake his shoulder gently. “Wake up.”

He groaned a bit, barely opening his eyes.

“Wake up, Max,” she said again, pushing his legs over a bit so she had room to sit down. “How are you still asleep?”

He stirred, burying his face in his pillow momentarily before propping himself up on his arms and looking around through squinted eyes. “What time is it?” he asked, his voice scratchy-sounding.

“6:30,” she answered, “p.m.”

He made a face, as if he couldn’t believe he’d slept the entire day away, and struggled to get up into a sitting position. “Damn,” he said, running his hand through his disheveled hair.

“Late night?” she teased.


“With Liz?” Maybe Liz had told him about the bun in the oven. That would explain why he looked like crap.

“No, not with Liz,” he said, yawning. “I wish. I just . . .” He paused for a bit, as if his tired brain was trying to formulate words, then shrugged. “I was out late.”

“Yeah, I heard someone downstairs at 6:00 this morning,” she said.

“Probably me.”

“Why were you out so late?” If there had been some wild, crazy party going on, she would have liked to tag along with him. The old Isabel Evans had hated that kind of atmosphere, but the new Isabel Evans found it entertaining.

He gave her a long, hard look, then said, “Okay, if I show you something, will you promise not to tell anyone? Not Liz, not Mom.”

“Sure.” She was starting to get intrigued.

He leaned over to the bedside table and pulled open the drawer, carefully taking out a small plastic baggy that fit in the palm of his hand. It was full of a white powdery substance that sort of looked like salt, but Isabel knew instinctively that it wasn’t. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked in astonishment.

“Coke, yeah,” Max confirmed, palming the bag. “An ounce. This stuff’s not cheap.”

“But I thought you were clean.” Wasn’t that what he had been telling everyone? Wasn’t that what they all believed?

“I am,” he insisted. “I didn’t do any of it yet.”

“Yet.” So did that mean he was planning to? And if so, when? Why? Isabel definitely wasn’t about to get up on some moral high horse and lecture him, not when she’d recently tried pot at Jesse’s. But she was curious about what would make him stay out all night last night to score an ounce of this.

“You can’t tell anyone,” he reiterated. “I don’t even know if I’ll . . .” He trailed off, shoving the bag back into the drawer. He slammed it shut, almost as if he was relieved to have it out of his sight. “I’m hanging on by a thread, Isabel,” he whispered in a panic.

Her intrigue and curiosity started to shift into something else now: concern. She loved her brother, even though she hadn’t known him for very long, and she didn’t want anything bad to happen to him. Especially because she knew about Liz’s situation and she knew he would have to be able to hold it together unless he wanted his own history to repeat itself.

“Nothing ever goes my way,” he lamented. “Everything’s falling apart. I’m starting to think I never should have come here.”

“Max . . .” She rested one hand on top of his, squeezing gently. “If you never would’ve come, you never would’ve gotten to know Dylan.”

“I still haven’t gotten to know Dylan,” she muttered angrily, “and I don’t think I ever will.”

She sighed, wishing she could disagree with that. But Maria didn’t seem to be backing down, and as much as Isabel hated to admit it, she and Michael had been doing a pretty good job of putting up a united front against any and all of Max’s attempts to create chaos. Things really weren’t going his way.

( :| )

“I’m not his dad. I’m not anyone to him,” Max said sorrowfully, looking down at his lap. “I’m no one.”

This didn’t even sound like Max. It sounded like the person who was putting him down. “You are not no one,” she insisted, though he didn’t seem to be listening anymore. She wanted to tell him that he still had the chance to be a father to a different kid, but it wasn’t her place. “Maybe life has other plans for you,” she speculated, hoping that life had other plans for both of them.

“I don’t think so,” he muttered, his eyes still downcast. He looked lost.

She removed her hand from his, sitting back, watching him intently with worry. With drugs in the nightstand drawer, that meant that the thread he was hanging on by was growing all the more thin, and chances were, any day now, it was going to break.


Maria rolled her head backward as Michael pressed his hips up into her. If he hadn’t had his arms around her back and if she hadn’t been holding onto his shoulders, she was certain she wouldn’t be upright, because she felt consumed. The things he did, the way he moved . . . it was intoxicating.

She loved the way he nipped at her shoulders and neck, the way his hands roamed down lower to grab her ass and lift her up higher, just so she could sink back down even further, one sweat-soaked body sliding against another. But most of all, she loved that, even though he wasn’t saying much, his passionate groans and grunts said it all.

It felt so good that it hurt. She dug her fingers into his shoulders, holding onto him for dear life as he rolled his hips forward and up, over and over again, straight into her, hitting all the right spots. He knew her insides. No one else would ever know her the way he did.

She longed for this, at all times, it seemed. She craved his body, the feel of it, the smell, and the shock waves it sent through her. Whether it was fucking, making love, or some combination of the two like this, she wanted it. She loved it.

After they have both came, he just sat with her, not moving. She was spent, and clearly so was he, but they would have to move soon. But not now. She sat on his lap, still feeling him inside. Her legs were wrapped around him, and she couldn’t help but smile appreciatively as he touched her hair and looked her right in the eye. He could be so gentle without even knowing it.

Even though she had to, she never wanted to let him go.


Damn, Michael thought when he heard a car horn honk outside. He had just gotten out of the shower, and now it was time for Maria to go. Luckily they’d been able to squeeze in a little bedroom rendezvous. He had to send her out on a positive note.

“They’re here,” Maria said, peeking out the window. “Oh my god, I’m so nervous.”

“I think you’ll have fun,” Michael’s mom said encouragingly. She sat on the couch with Dylan on her lap. The little guy was unusually subdued tonight, almost as if he knew his mom was going to be away for a week.

“Want me to carry anything out?” Michael offered.

“It’s okay,” Maria said, slinging her duffle bag over her shoulder, “I got it.”

His mother looked at the bag curiously, asking, “How could you fit everything in one bag?”

“I lived out of a backpack before you guys took me in,” Maria reminded her. “I know how to pack light.”

Even though she said she didn’t need any help carrying it out, Michael took the bag from her so that she could say goodbye to the family. The family that had bothered to show up, anyway. His dad was either upstairs sleeping off a hangover or out at the bar incurring one.

“Okay, I’m not gonna cry,” Maria said, first giving Tina a hug.

“It’s just a week,” Tina reminded her.

“That’s right. But you gotta promise to keep Dylan entertained while I’m gone.”

“Michael and I can entertain him,” Tina promised.

“Thanks.” She went to Krista next, sitting down beside her to give her a hug. Michael couldn’t hear every word, but he faintly heard her expressing her gratitude, letting his mom know how grateful she was for how much she helped.

Next came Dylan, who looked like he didn’t quite know what was going on. Maria lifted him off Krista’s lap and set him down on her own, hugging him and kissing him and telling him how much she loved him; and even though she had promised not to cry, that was exactly what she started to do. Michael sensed they were going to need a minute, so he opened the front door and signaled to the girls in the car that Maria would be out there shortly. He set her bag down on the porch and made his way back inside.

“I miss you, Mommy,” Dylan was saying.

“Miss me?” She wiped off her cheeks. “I’m not even gone yet.”

“When you come back?” He sounded worried. Poor little guy.

“Really soon. In a week. Do you know how long a week is?”

“Um . . .” He thought about it, then shook his head.

“Seven days,” she told him, kissing his head. “That’s not long. You’re gonna have so much fun here with Michael and Tina and Krista. You won’t even know I’m gone.”

“But I still miss you,” he said.

“Oh, I’m glad you’ll miss me.” Maria had to look up at the ceiling just to keep more tears inside. It dawned on Michael as he watched the whole goodbye pan out that Maria had never spent seven days away from Dylan. Not once in the past three and a half years. This was as new for her as it was for him.

“Okay,” she said, handing him back over to Tina. “I love you.”

“Love you, too, Mommy.”

She gave him one more kiss on the cheek, then forced herself up and tearfully waved goodbye to the three of them as she headed outside. Michael followed her, shutting the door behind him.

She waved hello to the girls in the car, the band that was so graciously taking her on their mini-tour, and he could see the excitement return to her again. As hard as it was for her to leave, she was really looking forward to it. It made him happy to know that she was doing this at least partly because he had encouraged her to.

He couldn’t think of anything to say, and it didn’t seem like she could, either. She stood in front of him, looking up at him as though there were things she wanted to say, but she didn’t need to. He got it. He understood. She loved him. She would miss him. She would love being able to sing in front of people, but she would love coming back home to him, too. Really, words weren’t necessarily. They had said it all up in the bedroom, where it had been just the two of them and they could live in their own little world.

Still . . . he loved the girl a lot, and he wasn’t about to let her take off without a goodbye kiss. So he cupped her cheek, bent forward, and pressed his mouth to hers, letting it linger, realizing for the first time since she’d agreed to go on this road trip that she wasn’t the only one who would be feeling a little separation anxiety. He had known Maria for nine months now, and not once in those nine months had he gone a full week without seeing her. And it wasn’t just not seeing her that was going to kill him. It was not touching her, holding her at night . . . and kissing her just like this.

He ended their kiss only because he knew he had to, because those girls couldn’t wait for her forever. She picked up her bag before he could do it for her, but before she stepped down off that porch, she took both his hands in hers. She opened her mouth as if she were about to say something, but once again, words escaped her. She just sighed and smiled, then slowly started to let go of his hands.

He took a step back towards the door, and she stepped down onto the porch step. One more step and their hands slipped apart, and she was able to turn head out towards the car. She cast a few glances over her shoulder as she walked, but eventually she got in that car and shut the door. She looked out the window, pressing her hand flat against the glass, and he waved goodbye as the car slowly rolled down the street.

Staying on the porch, he watched her go until she and her new friends disappeared into the night. He would have loved to go with her, and truthfully, part of him was wishing he had. But she needed him here. Here, where the bed would feel way too big and empty without here, where he would have a hard time falling asleep without her. Screw the tally marks on his wall that were meant to count all the way to the last day of school; he was going to make a new tally, a tally of the days until he could see Maria again. Touch her. Kiss her. Lie behind her at night and make sure she was warm. That was the only damn tally he cared about.

TBC . . .


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Re: Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 79, 10/03/1

Post by Eva » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:30 am

Whoaw, Michael really matured! The way he searched the ring, helped Kyle out with Tess and choose not to go to that party! We're seeing another man and I like him.

Max, on the other hand... What can I say more? Will he have the strength or not? Will Isabel have the strength to find herself again? Or are they going down together?
Take a look at Eva's world[/center]

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Re: Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 79, 10/03/1

Post by sarammlover » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:19 am

Whoa! Kyle's proposal was quite over the top but so perfectly Kyle and Tess and I love that he put so much time and effort into making it perfect. I hope Isabel can talk some sense into Max and I hope Isabel herself can get it together.

Max is a total scumbag for selling Maria's ring. I feel so bad.

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Re: Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 79, 10/03/1

Post by keepsmiling7 » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:44 pm

You have succeeded in having me hate this Max!
Was it really the ring that he sold?
I wonder about his "safety net"...........
Wish we could learn how Max takes Liz's news??
I feel so sorry for Maria and the ring situation.

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Part 80

Post by April » Sat Oct 10, 2015 11:57 am

Whoaw, Michael really matured! The way he searched the ring, helped Kyle out with Tess and choose not to go to that party! We're seeing another man and I like him.
Maturity is . . . pretty sexy, I think, and seeing this side of Michael is very encouraging.
Max, on the other hand... What can I say more? Will he have the strength or not? Will Isabel have the strength to find herself again? Or are they going down together?
Right now they both definitely seem to be on their own downward spirals, so we'll see if either one is able to pull themselves up out of it.

Whoa! Kyle's proposal was quite over the top but so perfectly Kyle and Tess and I love that he put so much time and effort into making it perfect.
Yes, quite over the top, but he knew that that was exactly what Tess would want!
I hope Isabel can talk some sense into Max and I hope Isabel herself can get it together.
If it's up to Isabel to talk some sense into Max, then that's not good, because she's not exactly in the most sensible place herself right now.
Max is a total scumbag for selling Maria's ring.
And for drugs of all things. Ugh.

You have succeeded in having me hate this Max!
Was it really the ring that he sold?
Yes, it was really the ring. :cry:
Wish we could learn how Max takes Liz's news??
Oh, how he reacts will be . . . pivotal. This news, it seems, will either save him or destroy him.
I feel so sorry for Maria and the ring situation.
I know. And here she is blaming herself for it, too, thinking it was her own fault.

Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate it.

Part 80

Toddlers had endless energy. Dylan was no exception. He never wanted to sit still; he always had to be doing something. He reminded Michael a lot of himself at that age. He’d never been one to just sit around. He’d liked being active. That was part of the reason he’d gotten so into football at such a young age. That and Kyle.

He skipped school so he could spend the day with Dylan. The little guy had woken up crying last night, crying for Maria. Clearly he wasn’t used to her not being there, and he was worried she was gone for good. It had taken a lot of reassurances from Michael to calm him down and get him to sleep.

But now that the day was a new one, Dylan seemed like his old self again. He was more than happy to not have to go to daycare and get to spend the day with Michael instead. They tossed the football around in the backyard for a while before Dylan got bored with that, and Michael decided to take him to the park. There were some other kids there, but they were all with their moms. In fact, Michael didn’t see one other dad around.

Dylan seemed to have a fondness for the sandbox. He liked trying to build things, and though he asked Michael to help, he was quick to tell scold him when he started building it wrong. “No, not like that,” he would say.

“Well, what are we building anyway?” Michael asked him. “A castle?”

“A boathouse,” Dylan corrected.

“A—a boathouse?” Michael laughed a little. “Alright, sure.” How did Dylan know what a boathouse was? And why the hell did he want to build one?

“Gotta be big,” Dylan said, digging his little fingers into some fresh sand. “Big boathouse.”

Michael was more than content to just sit back and watch him, though, let him build his boathouse all on his own. He took out his phone and started taking a few pictures. They were so close-up, though, so he got to his feet and backed away from the sandbox a bit so he could get a wider shot.

“Daddy, pway with me,” Dylan said.

“Just a minute.” Michael snapped a few more pictures. “I’m gonna send these to your mom.” Maria would be thrilled to see that Dylan was doing just fine.

He had just sent the pictures and put his phone back in his pocket when Amy DeLuca of all people ambled up beside him. No chance for him to grab Dylan and get away.

“Amy,” he greeted tersely.

“Michael,” she returned. “Hi, Dylan.”

Dylan looked up and smiled. “Gramma!” He sprang to his feet and ran towards her, hugging her tightly around her legs.

“Oh, hi, sweetie.” She bent down and hugged him back. “How are you?”

“Good.” He pointed to his sandcastle structure-in-progress and bragged, “Look what I build.”

“Ooh, look at that!” Amy exclaimed. “Is that a castle?”

“It’s a boathouse,” Michael corrected. “Right, Dylan?”

He nodded affirmatively and scampered back into the sandbox to continue playing.

“Oh, look at him,” Amy said, staring at him adoringly. “Isn’t he something?”

“Yeah,” Michael agreed, “he’s pretty great.”

“I really miss him,” Amy said regretfully. “And he’s not even that far away right now. I don’t know what I’m gonna do when you guys leave with him.”

“You’ll be fine,” Michael replied unsympathetically. He hadn’t even really meant to sound unsympathetic; it just came out that way. “I mean, it’s not like he’s gonna forget you. We’ll have him Skype with you and stuff.”

“Skype?” She sounded dissatisfied with that solution.

“And . . . you can come visit whenever you want,” he offered.

Her whole face lit up with excitement.

“Within reason,” he added quickly.

Her excitement waned.

Phew, dodged a bullet there, he thought. He’d almost given Amy an all-access pass to his life in Alabama. No, there would need to be limits. Holidays, birthdays, that kind of thing. He and Maria needed their space from her.

“I was thinking,” she said, turning to face him directly, “maybe since Maria’s gone this week, out and about doing that music thing, I could watch Dylan for at least a few days.”

Michael gave her a look. “A few?”

“Or at least just during the daytime while you’re in school.”

“And you’re at work,” he pointed out.

“Dylan can come to work with me. He can’t go to school with you.”

“I only have two days of school left,” he told her. “And I’m not gonna go.”

“Oh, well . . . that’s a wonderful example to set for an impressionable little boy.”

“Amy . . .” Didn’t she get that this was part of the reason why he didn’t want Dylan spending a whole week with her? He didn’t want her trying to poison his mind against him.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I don’t mean to be judgmental.”

“Isn’t that your default setting?”

“I’m trying, okay?” she insisted. “I’m adjusting. A few months ago, Maria was living with me, and I was helping raise Dylan.”

“Until you kicked her out.”

“Yes, but--”

“You thought she’d let Dylan stay. You thought you’d be able to take care of him. You thought you could do a better job than she could. How am I doin’ so far?”

She took in a shaky breath, and he knew he’d gotten under her skin a bit. “Let’s not, Michael,” she suggested. “Let’s not argue. Contrary to what you might believe, I don’t hate you. Now you might hate me, but . . .”

“I don’t hate you, Amy,” he told her. “I just don’t like you very much.”

“Well, the feeling’s mutual,” she assured him, “but . . . I will admit, it’s very nice of you to say you’ll take care of Dylan while Maria’s gone.”

“But?” Surely it wouldn’t end there, at a genuine compliment.

“But . . . you’re young, and it’s the end of your senior year. I’m sure there are a million other things you’d rather be doing than watching Dylan build a sandcastle.”

“Boathouse,” he corrected. “And no, there’s not.”


“Really. Actually, the only other things I’d rather be doing are X-rated things with your daughter, so . . .” He trailed off and shrugged.

“Oh, always the charmer,” she mumbled under her breath. “Well, if you decide you’d rather go out and spend some time with your friends, enjoy being a kid yourself while you still can, then you know where to find me. I’ll gladly watch over him.”

“I’m sure you will,” he acknowledged, “but I’m fine. I got this.”

She folded her arms over her chest, eyed him skeptically, and just said, “Well . . .” before letting her eyes drift over in her grandson’s direction again.


“I just wanna make sure we talk later, okay?”

Max followed Liz downstairs, only halfway listening to what she was saying. He was distracted by her short little Crashdown uniform.

“Okay?” she said again, stopping at the bottom of the stairs.

“Sure.” Break time had been nice. Liz’s house was above the Crashdown, so she’d brought him up there. For the first time, he’d gotten a chance to see her bedroom. It wasn’t much different than her dorm room, actually, except for the fact that she refused to have sex with him there. He’d tried, but she said she had things on her mind. And now she was stressing this whole talk they apparently needed to have.

I wonder if she’s gonna break up with me, he worried. Lately, he’d been pretty on edge. Maybe she’d had enough of it. Or maybe the reality of the Dylan situation was setting in, and she realized she wasn’t okay with dating someone who already had a son.

“I’ll see you later,” she said, turning to walk away.

He grabbed her arm, pulling her back to him. “I got an idea,” he declared. “Call it a day. Take off that uniform and come back upstairs with me. Or . . . come back upstairs and then take off the uniform. Either one works for me.”

“Max, when I come back upstairs, we’re talking,” she reaffirmed.

“About what?”

“Just . . .” She pulled her arm away. “Stuff.”

Oh, no, he thought. This didn’t sound good. His suspicions were probably correct. He was dreading it. A girl had never broken up with him before; he was always the one to initiate the split. But he didn’t want things to be over with Liz. He liked her. She was the one thing in his life that wasn’t a hurricane of drama.

“Just wait for me,” she told him. “I’ve only got two hours left in my shift. Then I’ll be back up there.”

He groaned, wishing she wouldn’t prolong the agony. If she was going to break up with him, sooner was better than later.

“I’m sorry, but my parents are gone for the weekend, so it’s up to me to keep things running. But once I’m done, I’m all yours, ‘cause then it’s on Agnes.”

“Agnes,” he echoed, trying to place a name with the face. “Is she the old waitress or the slow one?”

“Um . . . both, actually,” Liz replied. “Two hours. That’s all.” She rose up on her tiptoes and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, then scampered back out into the café.

He touched his hand to his cheek, confused now. If she was about to break up with him, why kiss him? Even though that hadn’t been much of a kiss, it was something. She was either giving him a crumb to hold onto, or there was something else she wanted to talk about.

Oh, shit, he thought, thinking he knew what was on her mind. It was the cocaine he’d bought. Isabel had probably slipped up and mentioned it. Those two girls had been sort of chummy lately. It made sense.

Sulking back upstairs, he started to prepare an excuse so she wouldn’t be too mad at him when the remaining two hours of her shift were over.


Michael caught Liz’s eye and gave her a small, awkward wave as she reentered the restaurant. She waved back just as awkwardly and attempted to smile.

“I remember her,” Kyle remarked.

“Yeah, so does Isabel,” Michael mumbled. Later, when Dylan wasn’t around, he’d tell Kyle all about how Liz was dating Max now—a fact which disgusted him, because Liz was a good girl, and Liz should have been smarter than that. But there wasn’t a chance in hell he was bringing up Max’s name, not with Dylan sitting right beside him.

He looked down at the little guy, noting how unhappy he seemed. His boathouse in the sand had turned out just fine, but ever since they’d left the park, he’d been oddly quiet and sullen, and he had only eaten half of his meal. “You gonna eat your fries?” Michael asked him.

Dylan shook his head.

“Why not? I paid for those.”

Dylan picked up one French fry, swirled it in ketchup, then bit off just the tip of it before setting it down again.

“Not hungry?” Michael guessed.

“Nope,” Dylan mumbled.

“You miss your mom?”

Dylan pressed his face into Michael’s arm and nodded. Yeah, of course he missed Maria. Michael understood that feeling just fine.

“He looks tired,” Kyle commented.

“Yeah, I bet he is.” Michael put his arm around the little boy, squeezing him to his side. “I didn’t get him to sleep until, like, 11:30 last night.”

Kyle chuckled. “Great parenting.”

“Yeah, really.” Oh, well. Dylan liked taking naps in the afternoon. Today would just be a supersized one.

Kyle reached over to Dylan’s plate, helping himself to a handful of fries. “So you comin’ to school on Monday and Tuesday?” he asked Michael. “Or are you just callin’ it done?”

Michael shrugged. “What’s the point?” Kyle was technically utilizing his open lunch privileges today, but Michael had no qualms about taking the whole day off. And Monday. And Tuesday. He didn’t need the last hurrah that those days were meant to be for seniors. Mentally, he was already out of there.

“I think they’re doin’ some senior class retrospective on Tuesday,” Kyle revealed. “Some slideshow of all these pictures of us throughout the years. You know, stuff from back at East.”

“Feels like a different life,” Michael admitted. And in some ways, it was.

“Might be kinda cool,” Kyle said, obviously trying to urge him to at least make one last appearance. “I don’t know.”

“You’ll have to tell me about it,” Michael said. “I think I’m gonna take Dylan to the zoo on Monday. And then Tuesday, I wanna take him swimming.”

“Does he know how to swim?” Kyle asked.

“No, I’m gonna teach him.”

Kyle raised an eyebrow.

“Hey, I’m a good teacher.” He’d taught Dylan all about football, hadn’t he? And nowadays, for a little guy, he was pretty good.

“Ah, you’re pretty good with him in general,” Kyle remarked. “It’s actually kinda cool.”

“Yeah.” Michael hugged Dylan tighter to his side as he started to snuggle up and shut his eyes. He was going to fall asleep right there in that booth.

“It’s kinda crazy that so much changed this year,” Kyle said. “You got engaged. I got engaged. You became a dad. You actually passed your classes.”

“Yeah, wonders never cease.”

“It’s been a good year,” Kyle proclaimed. “Hard to believe it’s ending, though.”

“Thank God,” Michael muttered. “I can’t take this high school crap.”

Kyle laughed a little. “Yeah, but . . . it wasn’t all bad. You know, the guys . . . they’re really gonna miss it.”

“I’m sure they will.” What did they have to look forward to?

“I’m kinda surprised you’re not down for Jase’s party,” Kyle said, snatching another one of Dylan’s fries. “You know?”

Michael slid the whole plate across the table so his friend could eat what was left freely. “You mean the party he says he wants to throw for us for getting engaged but really just wants to throw for himself ‘cause he has nothing better to do?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

Michael grunted. “I’m over it, man. I don’t really care about that stuff anymore.”

“Yeah, neither do I,” Kyle agreed, “but the guys do. It’s, like, what they look forward to. It really is more for them than it is for us. Especially Jase. He’s not goin’ to college.”

“Neither is Bubba,” Michael added. It wasn’t a grades issues for them, as they were pretty much average students. Their test scores were just incredibly low.

“Yeah, this is pretty much the best it’s gonna get for them,” Kyle said. “It’s like their peak, you know?”

“Yeah.” Michael was . . . really relieved it wasn’t his. Back at the beginning of the year, it would have been. Graduating, going out as a legendary player and slacker . . . that was the trajectory he’d been on. Until it had changed, he hadn’t realized how badly he’d always wanted it to change.

“I was thinkin’ it wouldn’t be so bad,” Kyle said, “just gettin’ everyone together, havin’ a good time. You know, maybe just the five of us. Or a couple other guys. Like some of the guys from East we didn’t hang out with as much this year. I don’t know, just a small group of us. Doesn’t have to be this huge thing. It could be fun.”

“So do it,” Michael suggested. “Don’t let me stop you. I just can’t. I gotta watch Dylan this weekend.” And every weekend following was going to be packed with wedding plans and moving plans and . . . well, sex with Maria, honestly.

“You don’t think your mom would watch him?”

“No, she . . .” She would, but he wasn’t about to ask her. He knew that, even though his mom didn’t talk about it much, she was really worried if he would be able to handle all the responsibility of being a parent when she wasn’t around. He wanted to prove to her that he could. “She shouldn’t have to,” he finished. “Besides, I think she and my dad are headed out of town this weekend. Some marriage counseling bullshit.” He rolled his eyes. Whatever. That had been his mom’s idea. He still thought his idea of divorce was a better, simpler one, but she wasn’t willing to give up. Yet. At this rate, it would probably take a few more years.

“I guess Tina’s too young to watch him on her own,” Kyle said.

“Well, she watches him a lot, but someone else is always home,” Michael said. “I mean, I guess . . .” He sighed, giving in a little bit. No, he wasn’t just itching to have a party, but Kyle was right. Their friends, even though they probably wouldn’t even keep in touch after high school, wanted one last time together. And on some level, as much as Michael hated to admit it . . . maybe he still wanted it, too. One last high school memory before graduation, because, as Kyle had pointed out, not all of high school had been torture.

“If they all wanted to come over to my house, they could,” Michael said. “Tina could keep Dylan occupied while we all hang out.”

“Yeah, that’d work,” Kyle said. “Nothing big, nothing wild, nothing crazy.”

“Right.” It couldn’t be wild and crazy, not if Dylan was going to be upstairs. And Tina, too. She was still young, still impressionable.

“So I’ll tell Jase it’s a go when I get back to school,” Kyle said.

“Go for it. Tomorrow night, though.” Tina was going to Hannah Crown’s birthday party tonight.

“Sounds good,” Kyle said. “I’m sure the guys will be thrilled.”

“Yep.” Maria probably wouldn’t be, though, so he didn’t plan on telling her. But it was fine. He could be a teenager and be a parent both at the same time. Hell, he’d been doing it most of the school year.


Lying on Liz’s bed, Max started to feel apprehensive. He was trying to prepare for the worst, but it wasn’t easy. He’d never actually had a girl break up with him before, and he couldn’t help but feel like the writing was on the wall here, like Liz was surely opening her eyes and realizing that there were better guys out there for her.

He held a teddy bear that had been set up with the pillows on her bed, wondering how long she’d had it. It was missing one eyeball, so chances were, a long time. That was just like Liz, though, to hold onto a childhood toy, probably because it had sentimental value. And it was just like her to have a picture of herself and her parents on the nightstand next to her bed. In the picture, she was wearing her graduation cap and gown and was standing outside with her parents, holding her diploma. Just last year.

Time ticked by at a snail’s pace, and he grew bored. Liz’s two hours of work were quickly turning into three, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could just lie there and wait. He caught sight of what looked like her journal lying there on her desk, and his fingers itched with the desire to go pick it up, open it, and read what was inside. He wanted to see if she’d written anything about him, maybe something that would give him an idea of what was to come, of what she would say when she was calling it quits on their relationship.

At last, he couldn’t hold back any longer. He set the teddy bear aside, got up off the bed, and walked over to her desk. Picking up the journal, he hesitated, knowing he shouldn’t, knowing it was private. But he was so damn curious . . .

The door to her bedroom opened, and he quickly set it down as she came in. “Hey,” he said, trying to look like he hadn’t been up to anything.

“Hey,” she said, taking off her headband. “I’m sorry that took me so long. Agnes just up and left, so I had to wait until her replacement came.” She shut the door, groaning, “I’m so tired.”

“You should sleep,” he suggested. “Unless you still wanna talk.”

“Yeah, I want to,” she said, beginning to unbutton her uniform. “Just let me get changed first.”

He moved in closer to her, trying to help undress her. “That’s more like it.”

“Max . . .” She pushed him back slightly.

Oh, great, he thought. That wasn’t a good sign. He backed up and sat down on the bed, relegated to watching her take off her clothes instead of helping her. “So are you breaking up with me?” he asked, trying not to sound too devastated by it.

She made a face. “What? Why would I do that?”

He shrugged, figuring it was obvious. “Because I’m a former drug addict. Because I’m a dad. Because I didn’t even tell you about that.”

“Max . . .” She opened up her closet and took out a university t-shirt, quickly putting it on. “I’m not breaking up with you.”

“But you said--”

“That I wanted to talk,” she cut in. “Why would you automatically assume . . .?”

“Oh.” He tried to laugh it off. “I don’t know.” Maybe it had something to do with buying that cocaine, keeping that a secret from her. Maybe, subconsciously, he’d been hoping she would break up with him. For her sake.

She opened up her top drawer, took out a pair of sweatpants, and tugged them on. “I don’t wanna break up with you, Max,” she said, tying the drawstring. “That’s, like, the furthest thing from my mind.”

“The furthest?”

“Yeah.” She took her hair out of her ponytail and came to sit down beside him on the bed. “But we do need to talk.”

“About what?”

“About . . . something serious.”

He narrowed his eyes, trying to get a read on her, on the situation. This had to be about Dylan, Maria, drugs, or college. What other serious stuff was there? “Go ahead,” he urged.

“Well . . .” She put her hands in her lap, twisting her fingers together. “I don’t really even know how to say this . . .”

His stomach clenched. Déjà vu.

“I’m pregnant.”

The whole world . . . it was like it just stopped. Max didn’t hear anything, didn’t see anything, didn’t say anything, and couldn’t do anything. His mind, at the top of its lungs, screamed, What?

Liz sighed shakily. “Like I said . . . serious.”

This was what she’d wanted to talk to him about? This was what he had waited three hours for? News that his life was changing yet again? No way. No fucking way.

“Say something, Max,” she whispered.

What the hell was he supposed to say? They’d been dating for four months. Mere weeks ago, he’d seen his son for the first time in years. He had cocaine stashed in his nightstand drawer. Now this?
“I . . .” His mouth felt dry. There was a lump in his throat.

“I found out a few days ago,” she told him. “I wasn’t feeling well, and I was late, so I took a test and . . . it was positive.” She blinked back tears. “Obviously.”

“But . . .” He’d just watched her change, just glimpsed her small frame, her flat stomach. She couldn’t have been very far along.

Take care of it, his mind was saying. Tell her to take care of it. But that hadn’t worked out too well with Maria.

He didn’t want to be the kind of guy whose gut reaction was to ‘take care of it,’ but clearly he was. He still was.

He hadn’t changed.

“Max?” Liz reached over to touch his shoulder.

He shook her hand away, standing up. No, he thought as he started to pace the room. No, no, no. He couldn’t handle this. He wasn’t strong enough for this.

“Are you okay?” she asked quietly.

“Does it look like I’m okay?” he spat back. “You just told me you’re pregnant. Of course I’m not okay, Liz.”

“I know.” She stood up slowly, looking very small, very unsure. “Trust me, I’m nervous, too. I mean, it’s not like I . . . I didn’t plan for this to happen. But it did.”

Twice, Max thought in agony. Twice now, he’d fathered a child. And he wasn’t any more ready for this one than he had been for the last one. His life wasn’t together, and he wasn’t the kind of person his own parents had wanted him to be. He was an idiot.

“How . . . how did it happen?” he stuttered. “I thought you were on the pill.”

“I was.”

He dragged one hand through his hair. God, it was fucking bad luck then. He’d never been one for condoms, not even after Dylan had been born, and now it was biting him in the ass.

“It just happened,” she said. “It caught me by surprise, too.”

“So . . .” He pointed a wordless finger at her stomach, staring at it in disbelief. They had a kid in there? One she would expect him to be there for because he was supposedly not a loser anymore? One she would bring into the world with the assurance that its daddy was going to be a rich and successful lawyer someday? He didn’t deal with stressful pressure very well, and this . . . this was a lot of pressure.

He didn’t even have to bother to ask if it was his. Liz wasn’t the type of girl who would sleep around. Ever since she met him, she’d been all about him. The girl loved him, and truth be told . . . he probably loved her. Or at least he was starting to. But this changed everything.

“I can’t,” he choked out.

She took a step forward, gazing at him in concern. “Max?”

He shuddered, flashing back.


His heart was pounding, his fingers shaking.

Maria stepped forward, reaching out for his hands, but he backed away. When she spoke, her voice was quiet and desperate. “Max?”


He stepped back now, too, feeling like he couldn’t breathe.

“Max, please talk to me,” Liz begged.

“I don’t . . .” He didn’t even know what to say. He’d told Isabel that he had been hanging on by a thread, and now . . . he felt like he was free-falling.

“Are you upset?” she asked.

Of course he was upset. Wasn’t it obvious? He just didn’t have it in him to be one of those guys who acted like it was all going to be okay. Maybe if he hadn’t screwed his life up so much, if he hadn’t screwed himself up . . . then maybe he could be supportive and understanding. But right now . . . he was sweating, and his breathing was labored, and he felt like he had to get out of there.

“I can’t,” he repeated, barging past her. He fled the bedroom, ignoring her desperate plea for him to stay.

“Max, wait!”

He trundled down the stairs, hearing her break into sobs. Part of him wanted to go back, but his feet moved him forward on their own accord. All he could do was think about the coke hidden away in that drawer. If he got home and got some of that in his system, then maybe he could forget about all of this. At least for a little while.


Michael had been sitting out in the car, waiting impatiently for Tina to leave the birthday party that evening, but as soon as Maria called, he had all the patience in the world. She said she couldn’t talk long, because she was singing in half an hour, but she wanted to check in and see how Dylan was doing.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Michael told her. “He’s asleep right here in the backseat.” He glanced back, getting a kick out of how Dylan was drooling as he slumped to the side in his car seat.

“The backseat?” Maria echoed. “Where are you guys?”

“Hannah Crown’s house.”

“Ugh,” she snarled. “What’re you doing there?”

“Tina had a birthday party. I’m pickin’ her up.”

“Oh, I see.”

“So what’re you singin’ tonight?” he asked, wishing he could be there with her. She said she was in San Diego tonight, apparently having a great time with Leah and her band so far.

“I think maybe ‘Unchained Melody,’” she replied.

“Ooh.” That brought back memories. “Think of me when you sing it, okay?”

“Of course.” He could practically hear her flirtatious smile. “And, uh . . . I think I might sing ‘Wild Ones’ again. And ‘Bloodstream’ by Stateless.”

“How’s that one go?”

“Don’t you remember? That’s the song we danced to at the Snowball dance.”

“Huh.” He remembered that night, but . . . “I don’t know if I’d classify what we did as dancing.”

“Okay, dancing-slash-making out,” she amended.

“Yeah.” He grinned fondly, reminiscing. “I wanna make out with you right now.”

“I wanna do more than that.”

“Yeah? Well, hey, I did promise you phone sex.”

She laughed, and he heard noise coming from the background. “Oh, I gotta go,” she said. “I’m almost up.”

“Alright. Good luck,” he said. “Tell the Desert Penguins band I said hi.”

“Desert Penguins?” she echoed. “They’re called Vegas Winter.”

“Ah, whatever, same thing.” He chuckled, looking out the window as the front door of Hannah’s house opened and Tina came out. “Alright, I love you,” he told her.

“Love you, too,” she said. “Bye.”

“Bye.” He ended the call and put his phone back in his pocket, reaching over to open the passenger side door for his little sister. His little sister who was wearing way too much makeup for her own good. “Hey,” he greeted. “How was it?”

She made a face and shrugged, getting in.

“Well, did you have fun?” Probably a redundant question judging by her complete lack of enthusiasm.

“Not really,” she answered. “I don’t really like Hannah.”

“Yet you went to her birthday party.”

“She’s my friend.”

“But you don’t like her.”

“Do you like all your friends?” she countered.

Well, hell, she had him there. “Good point.” He started up the car and drove away from the curb. As they drove past Isabel’s house, he said, “Hey, you’re not doin’ anything tomorrow night, are you?”

“No,” she replied. “Why?”

“ ‘cause I need you to do me a favor.”


“Well, Mom’s gone for the weekend with Dad, and I need some help watchin’ Dylan.”

“Some help?” she echoed. “Why?”

“I got some friends comin’ over; we’re gonna hang out for a while. Nothin’ major, but it’d be better for Dylan to be upstairs with you.”

“Because you guys are gonna be drinking?” she guessed.

“Just a little,” he said. “Like beer and stuff. Not the hard stuff Dad drinks.” Although he had indulged in the hard stuff from time to time. Tina didn’t need to know that, though. “I’m not gonna drink that much.”

“Are there gonna be, like, drugs and stuff?” she asked.

“No.” He’d never dream of bringing that around her or Dylan.


“No. It’s just a small thing, me and my friends. Kyle’s gonna be there, and a few of the other guys from school. That’s it.”

“Okay,” she said. “Just don’t drink too much, Michael. I don’t want you to be like Dad.”

Hearing her say that . . . knife in the heart. He wondered how much she worried about that. Probably not as much now as she used to, back at the beginning of the school year. He’d really been going overboard with it back then. Lately, he’d cleaned up his act . . . but he still wasn’t the best role model. “You’re a pretty good little sister, you know that?” he said.

She smiled.

“Pretty good aunt, too.”

“Wait . . . is that what I am to Dylan?” She giggled softly. “I always think of him more like a little brother.”

“Yeah, but when I adopt him someday, you’ll be his aunt.”

She looked over at him in astonishment. “You’re really gonna adopt him, huh?”

“Yeah.” Just a matter of time.

She looked out the window as they turned the corner and got back onto one of the main drags. “Cool.”

He smiled, keeping his eyes on the road. Yeah, he thought, encouraged to hear a positive response to that plan. For once. Cool.


The house was dark when Isabel walked in that night, so she turned on the light. “Max?” she called. His car was in the driveway, a sure sign that he was home, but her mother’s wasn’t, which probably meant she was showing a house again.

Her brother failed to respond, however, so she called out to him again. “Max, are you here?” She really wanted to show him her graduation dress, get his opinion on it. She’d spent all afternoon and evening shopping, and without Tess there, she didn’t have a second-opinion. Even though Max was a guy, he had a good eye for fashion. And he wouldn’t tell her it was a pretty dress if it really wasn’t. He’d give it to her straight.

Taking her pink dress out of the sack, she draped it over her arm and headed upstairs. She opened the door to his room, surprised that it was dark inside. But there was a sliver of light coming from the bathroom; the door was just slightly ajar.

“What’re you doing up here?” she asked, setting her dress down on the bed. “Hopefully nothing gross.” She really didn’t fancy the thought of walking in while he was masturbating or something. He made no effort to shut the door, though, so she bravely walked forward and slowly peeked into the bathroom. “Max?”

When she saw him, she was stunned. There he was, just sitting on the bathroom floor. His hair was wet and stuck to his forehead, and his expression was blank. He barely even looked up to acknowledge her presence. Most disturbing of all, however, was the fact that he had arranged two perfect lines of coke on the counter of the sink.

“Oh my god,” she gasped, sitting down beside him. “Max?”

He stared at the wall in front of him, saying nothing.

“Are you okay?” she asked, immediately realizing that was a stupid question. Of course he wasn’t okay. He’d delved into his drug stash. There they were, two lines of coke, just ready and waiting to be snorted.

Maybe he had already snorted one. Maybe that was why he was like this. Although . . . she wasn’t a drug expert by any means, but didn’t cocaine make people feel kind of wired? Max definitely wasn’t wired. He was the opposite.

“Did you . . .?” She looked up at the counter, unable to formulate the whole sentence.

When he spoke at last, it was a relief. “No,” he replied. “But I wanted to.”

She breathed a small sigh. Good, she thought. This is good. It wasn’t good that he’d felt the urge, obviously, but at least he had resisted it. Cocaine was a serious drug. She didn’t want her brother involved in it. Pot was different, practically recreational these days. But hard stuff like this was dangerous, especially for someone like Max, who was a former drug addict.

“What happened?” she asked, figuring something must have set him off. She feared she already knew.

He snorted, closed his eyes for a moment, and then opened them again. “Liz,” he said.

Yep. Just as she’d feared. “What about her?” she asked anyway, wanting to be absolutely positive Liz had told him about the pregnancy before she blurted something out about it.

“We talked,” he said bitterly. “I thought she was gonna break up with me, but . . . I guess not.”

“So what did you talk about?” Isabel prodded.

He chuckled unhappily, that sad kind of laugh that was just so painful to hear from anyone. “She told me she’s pregnant.”

Isabel’s stomach tightened. She didn’t have it in her to act surprised.

“Did you already know?” he asked, no hint of accusation on his voice.

Reluctantly, she confessed, “Yeah, I did. She told me a few days ago. I think she just needed to tell someone.”

He nodded dazedly, slowly agreeing, “Probably.”

“And now she told you. And you’re . . .” Isabel brushed her brother’s wet hair off his forehead. She couldn’t tell if he was just sweating a lot or if he’d actually climbed in the shower, maybe to calm himself down.

“I’m not handling it well,” he admitted. “I never do.”

She wondered if this was what it had been like the first time, if this was how he reacted when Maria had told him she was pregnant. That had been a long time ago, though, and Max had been so much younger. He had to know it wouldn’t necessarily be the same this time.

“You’ll be fine, Max,” she assured him. “You’re not a kid anymore.”

“I think I am,” he said quietly.

“You’re not,” she insisted. “You’re an adult. You’re already a father.”

He laughed sadly again. “Yeah, in theory.”

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best way to make him feel better.

“Genetic lines and coke lines,” he mused. “Fucking déjà vu.”

“Don’t freak out, okay?” she said, rubbing his shoulder supportively. “You can do this.”

“I don’t think so,” he mumbled.

“Why not?”

“Because I’m . . .” He grunted. “Me.”

“Yeah, you. You’re an Evans,” she reminded him weakly.

He shook his head. “Doesn’t mean I’m ready to bring another one into this world.”

Oh god, she thought, her stomach clenching. He really wasn’t ready, was he? It didn’t matter that he was in his twenties now, or in college, or clean. He still wasn’t ready. Isabel didn’t know what to say to make him feel better, to get him believing that he could do this. Because sitting there in that bathroom with him, contemplating what to do with those lines he had arranged to snort . . . as awful as it was to be skeptical of her own brother, she really doubted he had it in him to be somebody’s dad right now. Or any day soon.

TBC . . .


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Re: Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 80, 10/10/1

Post by keepsmiling7 » Sun Oct 11, 2015 5:29 pm

Dylan really misses his mom......but Michael is such a good father to him.
Amy had a good idea about marriage counseling whether you believe it not Michael!
Max thought Liz wanted to break-up with him, and that was far from the truth.
Maybe this is a good sign that he didn't snort his stash yet..........
Glad Isabel was there, but what will Max do now??

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Re: Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 80, 10/10/1

Post by sarammlover » Mon Oct 12, 2015 10:26 am

So Max DIDN'T do the coke???? Maybe he has changed (slightly)...interesting that he was pushing and pushing to be Dylan's father and when he finally has the chance to BE another child's father, he runs away and freaks out (AGAIN!). I don't know what he is going to do. I feel so bad for Liz at this point.

oh Michael....bad move having the party at your house. He really should have stuck to his guns about being there with Dylan and for Dylan. I hope he doesn't make any bonehead moves! HA!@

Great update.

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Re: Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) Part 80, 10/10/1

Post by Eva » Tue Oct 13, 2015 3:02 pm

I've got a bad feeling about the night with the guys. Am I a negative thinker? I always thought I wasn't.. untill I started to read your stories, April! 8)
Take a look at Eva's world[/center]

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Part 81

Post by April » Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:42 am

Dylan really misses his mom......but Michael is such a good father to him.
It's such a natural and heartwarming bond they have. :)
Maybe this is a good sign that he didn't snort his stash yet..........
Maybe. :?
Glad Isabel was there, but what will Max do now??
What Max does next will have major implications for everyone in this story.

So Max DIDN'T do the coke???? Maybe he has changed (slightly)...
But the fact that he was so tempted and got so close to doing it is definitely worrisome.
interesting that he was pushing and pushing to be Dylan's father and when he finally has the chance to BE another child's father, he runs away and freaks out (AGAIN!).
Yeah, when it all comes down to it, Max has been talking the talk about being a father, but his reaction is the same as it was the first time.
I feel so bad for Liz at this point.
Me, too. Liz is a good, nice person. Getting mixed up with Max has altered her life so dramatically.
oh Michael....bad move having the party at your house. He really should have stuck to his guns about being there with Dylan and for Dylan. I hope he doesn't make any bonehead moves!
After all this time, we're still concerned about Michael making "bonehead moves." Hmm . . . :?

I've got a bad feeling about the night with the guys. Am I a negative thinker? I always thought I wasn't.. untill I started to read your stories, April!
:lol: Hahaha! My stories have made you constantly fear the worst, huh?

Thanks for the feedback!

These next few updates will be MAJOR.

Part 81

Morning sickness was really going to suck. Liz was just getting a taste of it so far, but it was only getting worse with each passing day. She really didn’t feel like working, but there was no one who could cover her shift for her on such short notice. Besides, she wanted to stay busy. Last night had been awful, telling her parents, trying to get a hold of Max and talk to him about it some more. She hadn’t slept much because she’d been up all night, agonizing about it. Thank God her parents were being supportive and understanding, because Max sure as hell wasn’t.

Luckily, there weren’t many customers there in the morning. Just a cute little elderly woman and her daughter, out for breakfast. Right as they were leaving, Michael came in. He held the door open for them on their way out and everything. Liz marveled at the sight of Michael Guerin being courteous.

“Hey,” he greeted.

“Hey,” she returned, watching as he took a seat at his usual booth. It hadn’t changed, not once in two years. “Sorry your favorite waitress isn’t here. You get me instead.”

“That’s alright,” he said. “Heavenly hash browns?”

She nodded in confirmation. “Got it.” She walked back to the order window, where Jose was practically falling asleep, and put in the order. “You want some juice or anything?” she called over to Michael.

“Nah, maybe some, uh . . . root beer,” he said.

“Okay.” Not exactly the typical breakfast drink, but then again, Michael wasn’t exactly typical, in any way.

She filled him up a glass and walked it over to him, setting it down in front of him.

“Thanks,” he said, taking an eager drink. “I love root beer now.”

“Like more than regular beer?” she asked.

He shrugged and set his glass back down.

God, he’s changed, she thought, looking down at him. Physically, everything was the same, but everything else was different.

I’ve changed, too, she thought. Can he tell? Probably not. Michael had never really known her that well. He’d just pursued her. Slept with her. Been done with her. She wasn’t bitter about it, but she did regret that she hadn’t gotten to know this version of him.

“Can I sit down?” she asked. Maybe hanging out with him would remind her of better, simpler times.

“If you want,” he replied.

She did want to. Sure, her romantic feelings for Michael Guerin were long gone, but she still liked him as a person.

“So where’s Dylan?” she asked, sitting down across from him.

“With my mom,” he revealed. “She went grocery shopping and wanted to take him with her. I think she’s gonna miss him when we move.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet.” Liz smiled a little. Oh, that little Dylan . . . he sure was adorable. Liz had barely been able to take her eyes off him yesterday when he’d been at the café with Michael and Kyle. The entire time that he’d been sitting there, she’d watched him, wondering if her and Max’s child would look anything like him. Probably not, because their child would have darker hair, but maybe facially . . . maybe there would be a resemblance.

“You’re really good with him,” she told Michael. “Like really good.”

“Am I?”

“Yeah.” It was actually sort of heartwarming to see the infamously reckless, immature Michael grow up and turn into a good guy. “I was watching you guys yesterday while you were here. It’s obvious he’s really comfortable around you.”

“Well, he should be. He lives with me,” Michael said.

“No, but it’s more than that. It’s like . . . it’s like you’re actually his dad.”

“Well . . .” Michael shrugged. “Somebody’s gotta be.”

“Yeah.” She frowned momentarily, because if it wasn’t for Michael, Dylan wouldn’t have a dad. How sad was that?

“He calls me Dad. You know that?” Michael said, smiling proudly. “And he always wants me to teach him something new about football.”

“He wants to be like you,” she said. “That’s great, Michael.”

He gave her a skeptical look. “You really think so? I mean, you are dating his biological father.”

She sighed. Dating and doing a whole lot more than that. “I know,” she said, “but . . . biology means nothing.”

“What? Didn’t you once wanna become, like, a molecular biologist?” he teased.

“I still do,” she said, “but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re the one who’s raising him. And you’re doing a really good job, Michael.”

He took another sip of root beer and leaned back. “Thanks.”

She smiled softly. Max would have hated her for having this conversation, but to be honest . . . right now, she didn’t really care what Max thought. The guy hadn’t even had the decency to pick up his phone last night. Hopefully he’d come talk to her today, and things would be different.

“So how are things between you and your dad?” she asked, remembering that there had always been a tension there. “Any change?”

“Uh, yeah,” he replied. “It’s worse.”

“Oh.” She winced. “I’m sorry.” He had never talked about it with her a whole lot, but once in a while, when he’d been opening up to her as a way of flirting with her, he’d told her a few things. Not pleasant things.

“Ah, it’s alright,” he said flippantly. “Is what it is.”

“Yeah, but I bet that’s been really rough on you,” she said, “growing up with a man like that.”

“Yeah, it’s rough,” he agreed, “but there’s nothin’ I can do about it. I’m stuck with him.”

“Stuck?” She didn’t like the sound of that.

“Yeah. I mean, no matter what, he’s always gonna be my dad, whether I like it or not.”

“Yeah.” She couldn’t help but think about her own situation, her own child who, years down the line, would hopefully not be having this same conversation.

“I do wish my mom would divorce him, though,” he revealed. “She deserves better. I think we’d all be a lot better off without him.”


“Oh, yeah. In fact, I know we would be.”

She shivered inwardly, disturbed by the thought. What if Michael’s family’s future was her future? What if Max ended up being as unhappy with her and their child as Michael’s dad had been for years now? What if they couldn’t make it work as parents? What kind of family could they actually hope to make for their child? They hadn’t even known each other for half a year yet.

“You okay?” he asked.

She forgot about frowning and put on a sympathetic smile instead. “Yeah,” she answered, her voice cloaked with emotion. “It’s just really sad.”

Again, he shrugged, not wanting to make a big deal out of it. But it was a big deal. To her.


“How’s it goin’?” Michael asked as he re-entered the living room. Kyle had been in there a while now, trying to get their defunct stereo working again.

Kyle shrugged and answered, “It’ll play stuff off my iPod. It just won’t be loud.”

“That’s alright,” Michael said. “Dylan’s gonna be upstairs, so it’s not like I need it to be blaring.”

“Yeah,” Kyle agreed. “Hey, you sure you wanna host this thing? ‘cause we could always do it at my house.”

“No, it’s fine,” Michael told him. “I can be a dad and be a high school senior at the same time. Been doin’ it for months now.”

“If you say so,” Kyle said, hooking his iPod up to the stereo. He started to swear when it wouldn’t turn on. “Piece of crap . . .”

Michael left him to it and headed upstairs, meeting Tina as she was on her way down from her room. “Hey, is Dylan all situated up there?” he asked her.

“Yep,” she replied. “He’s got all sorts of toys, so he should be occupied for a while. And if he gets bored with his stuff, he’ll probably just mess with my stuff, so . . .” She trailed off and shrugged.

“Thanks for watching him tonight,” Michael told her. “The guys and I, we just need one last chance to hang out together and--”

“Get drunk?” she cut in.

He hated that she assumed he would cross that line and do that while she and Dylan were in the house. That wasn’t him anymore. But it used to be. “I’m not gonna get drunk,” he promised. Since his parents were gone, he was technically responsible for her, too. He was going to actually be responsible, despite how unnatural it was. “And it’s not gonna get too wild,” he assured her. “Trust me.”

Right as he said that, the front door opened, and in came Jase, Antonio, and Bubba, along with a few of the other guys from the football team. Jase was carrying a six-pack, and Bubba had a twelve-pack on each shoulder. They yelled and clapped him on the back and immediately told Kyle to blare the music.

Tina gave him a skeptical look.

“I got it under control,” he vowed, even though these guys were hard to control.

“Promise?” she asked.

He wasn’t concerned. When all was said and done, his friends were pretty harmless. “Promise.”


Liz sat outside on her balcony that evening, trying not to move very much. It had taken all day for the morning sickness to subside, and now that it had, she was exhausted. All she could do was curl up under her blanket and shut her eyes, hoping to fall asleep.

She heard movement inside her bedroom, thinking at first that it was one of her parents coming to check on her. But when she opened her eyes, Max was climbing through her window out onto the balcony.

“Hey,” she said softly, surprised to see him.

“Hey,” he returned. “Your mom let me in. Reluctantly.”

“Yeah, I . . . I told her about . . . you know.” She moved her blanket aside and stood up as she did. “I told my dad, too. They’re . . . kind of shocked.”

“Well, they’re not the only ones,” he mumbled, brushing past her as he went to peer over her balcony. She watched him for a few seconds, trying to get a read on his mood. He looked sort of out of it, only marginally calmer than he’d been yesterday after she’d first told him about all of this. But he was there, at least. That was something.

She moved to stand beside him, peering down at the empty sidewalk. “If you’d climbed up here,” she said, “it would’ve been like Romeo and Juliet.”

He kept his eyes downcast, not looking at her. “Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy,” he informed her.

Why would he say that? Why would he even imply . . . “Yeah, I know,” she said. “I was just . . .” She shook her head, figuring it was a pointless comparison anyway. She and Max didn’t have the whole star-crossed thing going on. They were as typical as any other college couple, except for the fact that they were going to be parents before they graduated. “I don’t even know what I’m saying,” she murmured, holding onto the railing tightly. “Oh god, I am so scared.”

Finally, he looked at her, but that gleam of supportiveness she longed to see in his eyes . . . she didn’t see it. “Don’t you think I am, too?” he snapped, almost accusingly.

“I didn’t say you weren’t,” she said. “But it’s different for me. I’m the one who’s literally, physically pregnant.”

“And you’re absolutely sure?” he prodded.

“I wouldn’t have told my parents if I wasn’t.” She frowned. Didn’t he know this wasn’t what she wanted, wasn’t what she needed? She just needed him to hug her and hold her close for a while and promise her that everything was going to be alright.


Holding her hand against her forehead to shield her eyes against the sun, Liz stood helplessly beside her car, wondering if she could somehow get to the bus stop and still get to her job interview in time. This flat tire was an awful predicament, and it was going to derail her entire day if she just kept standing here.

Just as she was about to take off, a dark-haired man ambled up to her vehicle, smiling. “Need some help?” he asked, motioning towards the deflated tire.

Like a preteen, she felt her heart flutter in her chest. This guy was just too good-looking to be true. She’d seen him around campus, especially around the dorms; he’d caught her eye even back when she’d been dating Alex, but she’d been too shy to approach him. This felt like fate. “Yeah, actually,” she said. “See, I’m supposed to be at a job interview in twenty minutes, but I don’t think the bus is gonna get it done, and I don’t know how to change a flat.”

“I do,” he offered. “I’ll change it for you.”

“Thanks.” Hot and helpful? He was a total catch. “I’m Liz,” she said, hoping she wasn’t being too obvious, too forward.

“I’m Max,” he returned.

“Max,” she echoed. “I think you might be my knight in shining armor today.”

He laughed lightly, taking the compliment in stride. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Everything’s gonna be alright.”

Yeah, she thought, unable to take her eyes off him. She had a feeling it would be.


Thinking of that day, that moment, knowing now how it had altered her life forever . . . Liz felt tears sting her eyes. She tried to blink them away, but Max noticed.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

She dabbed at the corners of her eyes, flimsily lying, “Nothing.” She didn’t want to turn into a big emotional mess about this. She wanted to be calm, as calm as she could be.

“So what’re you gonna do?” he asked suddenly.

She was so focused on trying not to cry that the question caught her off guard. “What?”

“About the baby,” he clarified.

She just stood there for a moment, interpreting the question. If he was asking her what she was going to do, then clearly he thought there were . . . options. But she only saw one option. “What do you mean?” she asked back. “What do you want me to do?”

He grunted, sitting down in the chair she’d been trying to fall asleep in moments ago. “What I want you to do and what you’re gonna do are probably two different things.”

“What do you want me to do, Max?” she asked sharply, getting the feeling she already knew. “I’m not gonna have an abortion.”

“I didn’t say anything about that.”

“But that’s what you want me to do, isn’t it?” she concluded.

He threw his arms in the air flippantly. “I don’t think we should rule it out. But clearly you already have, so . . .”

“That’s right, I already have.” The thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. “I can’t even believe . . .” She shook her head in disbelief. “You told Maria to have an abortion once, didn’t you?”

“I did,” he openly admitted.

“Right, and if she’d listened to you, Dylan—the little boy you so desperately wanna get to know—wouldn’t even exist right now.”

“I don’t care if I’m the bad guy for suggesting it,” he said, rising to his feet again. “It was an option.”

“It wasn’t an option!” she snapped, enraged that he would even entertain the idea. “It was never an option!”

“Okay, so what do you propose?” he rumbled. “You’re gonna have this baby, and . . . what? We just raise it together?”

“Why not?” That didn’t sound so far-fetched.

“Because I can’t even raise the kid I already have; that’s why not.”

“This is different,” she said. “I’m not Maria, and you are not the same person you were back then.”

“I’m the exact same person,” he claimed. “Don’t fool yourself, Liz. You didn’t know me back then, but I’m not any different.”

“What do you mean?” She’d never heard Max be so down on himself. He was usually actually pretty boastful.

“I’m not different! I haven’t changed!” he yelled suddenly. “I didn’t become some great guy when I went to college or when I met you. So don’t stand here and try to tell me I’m not the same person anymore, or convince me that I can handle it this time, because I can’t. If anything, I’m even more messed up now.”

She stared at him in utter confusion, just not understanding. No, Max wasn’t perfect. She’d always known that, accepted it, and actually sort of liked it. But she couldn’t comprehend why he was being so hard on himself. “Max, I know you’re scared,” she said, reaching out for him.

He backed away, almost defensively. “You don’t know anything about me,” he claimed.

“What?” Now he was just making her feel bad.

“What do you think you know?” he challenged.

“I—I know that you . . . you have a past,” she stuttered. “We all do.”

“Not like mine,” he argued. “Tell me, Liz, why did I come here?”

“What?” she asked. “You mean to—to Roswell?”


What did that have to do with anything? “You wanted to spend the summer with me in my hometown, and you wanted to reconnect with your mom and your sister.”

He pointed a finger at her and harshly declared, “Wrong.”

She frowned. “What?”

“I wanted to spend the summer with you, sure,” he acknowledged. “But the bigger picture, the reason why I came here . . . is ‘cause I had nowhere else to go.”

She thought of his dad, a man she had not yet met but had only seen in pictures. “Well, yeah, I know you and your dad aren’t getting along.”

“Why aren’t we?” he asked.

“Because he—he doesn’t want you to pursue first amendment law,” she answered. “He wants you to go into business law or something.”

Max laughed sadly, almost pathetically. “Yeah, that’s the story I told you. Told everyone. But you wanna know the truth?”

Her stomach felt like it was twisting into knots. The truth? That meant he’d been lying to her, about something pretty important, judging by the sound of it.

“My dad hates me,” he stated bluntly. “Not because he doesn’t agree with my career path, but because I don’t even have one.”

“What . . .” She felt completely frazzled as she tried to understand what he was saying. “What’re you talking about, Max? You’re gonna be a lawyer.”

“No, I’m not,” he grumbled. “I’m not gonna be anything. You know why? Because I got kicked out. Kicked out of college.”

Her stomach back-flipped, and she felt her eyes widen in shock. “What?”

“Yep. Got busted for drugs one too many times. School decided I was a liability, so they kicked me to the curb. And so did my dad. Pretty much told me I was dead to him if I wasn’t gonna do something with my life.”

She shook her head, still not understanding. “But you’re . . . you’re a student, Max. The first time we met, it was on campus.”

“I was on my way to meet the dean,” he informed her, “beg for him to change his mind. But he didn’t. So that was that. I never got back in. I haven’t been a college student since December.”

She kept shaking her head, not believing in. “But you always said you were going to class, and . . . I even saw you studying.”

“I faked it,” he confessed unabashedly. “I faked everything. I didn’t want you to know what a loser I was.”

She looked down at her hands, noticing she was shaking. She felt absolutely terrified. If he went to such extents to lie about this, then what else was he lying about? “The drugs,” she said. “You told me you were clean.”

“I am,” he insisted. “I got busted on New Year’s. I haven’t relapsed since.”

“How am I supposed to believe you?”

He flapped his arms against his sides. “I don’t know. How are you supposed to trust me? I don’t know, Liz. How are you supposed to raise a kid with a man who’s been lying to you for months? You tell me.”

“What exactly was your plan?” she ground out. “When were you gonna tell me about any of this?”

“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d have to,” he said, “ ‘cause I didn’t think we’d last this long.”

The tears that had been poking at her eyes, started to spill over. “What?”

“I like you, Liz, a lot,” he told her, sounding genuine. “But I sure as hell didn’t picture myself settling down and starting a family with you.”

“Ever?” she whimpered.

“Listen, that’s not the kind of thing guys my age think about.”

“Guys your age,” she echoed, grunting. “What a load of crap.” Michael was two years younger, and he had already proposed to Maria and was planning to adopt Dylan. Being young was no excuse for being idiotic.

He stepped towards her forcefully, grabbing both her shoulders, shaking her a bit. “I’m a train wreck, Liz,” he growled. “Think about it. I’m not gonna be some smart, successful lawyer. I’m gonna be the deadbeat dad who got kicked out of college for the rest of his life. I’m gonna be a fucking drug addict for the rest of my life.”

She stared at him in alarm, shaking her arms free of his grasp. “You just told me you were clean.”

“I am, but I’m struggling,” he wailed. “I’ve got a stash of cocaine out in my car right now, and all I wanna do is go out there and get fucking high.”

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she got a glimpse of him, the real him, for the first time. She felt worried for herself, because she knew she was losing him, and she felt scared for him, because he looked like he was right on the edge. “Don’t, Max,” she pleaded.

“I want to!” he cried. “You told me you were pregnant, and it was the first thing I wanted to do! It’s the only thing that’ll make me feel better.”

“Oh, god,” she cried. He looked . . . so lost. Possibly too lost for her to help him. She wanted to, because she loved him; but then again, how could she love someone she didn’t even know? Someone she couldn’t trust? The Max Evans she had fallen in love with was a smokescreen, and now, he was disappearing right in front of her eyes.

“Do you see why I want you to have an abortion?” he roared. “I can’t do this!”

She shook her head stubbornly. Maybe he was right about that, but there was no way she was going to destroy a child that she had helped create. If it drove Max off the rails, then so be it. That was a risk she was willing to take. “I’m sorry, Max,” she apologized. “I won’t do that.”

He clenched his jaw shut, his mouth tightening and trembling. “No, you won’t,” he said, sounding resigned, but still pleading. “Liz, please. I don’t even know Dylan.”

“I’m having this baby, Max,” she declared determinedly. “With or without you.” Based on this conversation, it would be without him. And that would probably be a good thing. Hard in its own way, but better in the long run. He wasn’t ready for this. He had to figure himself out. Maybe someday . . .

. . . or maybe never.

He sighed shakily, tears streaming down his own face as he nodded with reluctant acceptance. “I can’t do this,” he muttered simply, and with that, he was off.


Like he’d never been there in the first place.

Liz sunk back down into her chair, curled up on her side, and cried. She had feared this, but now it was a reality: Max wasn’t going to help her; she was on her own.


Michael brought the red plastic cup up to his mouth, savoring the taste of the liquid inside. It had been a while since he’d gotten drunk—not that he was actually getting drunk. He’d only had two or three glasses. So no, not drunk, not drunk at all. But . . . buzzed. A pleasant buzz that made him feel all lighthearted and young, but not at all irresponsible.

“Alright, let’s kick this party into gear!” Jase proclaimed, rubbing his hands together excitedly. “What’ll it be, gentlemen? Asian or Latina?”

“No stripper,” Kyle dismissed quickly.

Jase whimpered like a puppy who had just been kicked. He looked to Michael for a different answer.

“Yeah, Dylan’s upstairs,” Michael said. “And so is my sister. No stripper.”

“Your sister?” Jase echoed, stumbling around the living room a bit. “She hot?”

Michael almost decked him. “She’s eleven.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Jase laughed. “Never mind then.”

“Dude, you’re off on another planet,” Antonio said, clapping him on the back.

“I know,” Jase agreed eagerly. “I started drinkin’, like, an hour before I came here, man. I’m just . . . out there.”

Bubba belched loudly, declaring, “Me, too.” He hadn’t moved from the couch since he’d come in and sat down. He looked like a beached whale.

“Alright, no stripper,” Jase resigned. “Daryl, you got any pornos out in your car?”

Daryl? Michael thought. The backup quarterback? He hadn’t hung out with that kid all year. Truth be told, he hadn’t even seen him come in. It seemed like more and more people were showing up as the party went on. He was sort of losing track of who all was in his house.

“Man, I got softcore porn, hardcore porn, amateur, professional, you name it,” Daryl bragged. “Want me to go get ‘em?”

“Yeah!” Jase exclaimed.

“No,” Michael overruled, getting to his feet. “Dylan and Tina, remember?”

“Oh, right.” Jase frowned exaggeratedly. “Well, if we can’t get a stripper and we can’t watch porn, what can we do?”

Michael definitely wasn’t used to being the party police, and he knew his friends probably weren’t thrilled to see him assume that role. But if he stayed just buzzed instead of getting drunk, he knew he could keep it all under control. “Just keep drinkin’,” he replied, raising his nearly empty cup for a toast.

“Hell yeah!” Jase hooted, slamming his cup against Michael’s, sloshing liquid all over the sides. It spilled on the carpet, but he unapologetically rubbed it in with his foot.

“Hey, I got an idea,” Antonio proclaimed. “Beer pong?”

“Oh, I’m up for beer pong,” Bubba bellowed, struggling to get to his feet. “I’m up.” The combination of his weight and his drunken stupor prevented him from getting up, though, so Kyle had to grab one of his hands while Antonio grabbed the other, and together, they lifted him. “Thanks, guys,” he said, laughing drunkenly before yelling, “Beer pong!”

“Yeah!” the guys hollered, tearing into the kitchen to set it up.

Michael stood back and chuckled inwardly, shaking his head. They all kind of looked like idiots, and they were acting like idiots. But it was fun, and part of him missed it.

“They’re havin’ a good time,” Kyle remarked, hanging back with him.

“Yeah,” Michael agreed. “Last hurrah.”

“Last hurrah,” Kyle echoed. “I told you it was a good idea.”

“Beer pong was a good idea,” Michael said, shuffling into the kitchen with his friend. “I’m gonna kick some ass, show ‘em how it’s done.” Sure, he hadn’t played for a while, but it was like riding a fuckin’ bike: You never forgot how.


I’m gonna break apart into a million pieces, Max thought melodramatically as he drove that evening. He didn’t know where he was going or if he was even going anywhere at all, but he felt confident that he wouldn’t make it in one piece. Everything about him felt like it was shattering: his mind, his heart, even his body.

Liz didn’t get it. She just didn’t know how messed up he was. Even now, even after he’d yelled at her and basically blurted out that he didn’t want to be a dad again, she wouldn’t get it. She’d still love him, long for him on some level.

Her mistake.

Everyone made mistakes.

His mistakes were just bigger than others.

Maybe his whole life was just one huge mistake after another. Maybe the downward spiral was an art form he was meant to perfect. Maybe there was no point in trying to climb back up and out of his own upsets and failures anymore.

If nothing ever changed, what was the point of trying to be different? If history was doomed to repeat itself, why not just let it?

He ended up outside Michael Guerin’s house. Of course. Stuck on the outside while, on the inside of those walls, a virtual stranger raised Dylan.

It wasn’t fair. Michael got to change, got out of his own vicious cycle. Max envied him. He envied that he was at least slightly less tied down. He envied that he was happy. And he resented that Dylan was so happy with him.

To some extent, he wasn’t sure why he felt the things that he did, why the need to be a part of Dylan’s life had been so consuming ever since he’d stepped foot in this town. He did not know whether his motivation for it was admirable, selfish, or some combination of the two, but he no longer cared to contemplate it.

Dylan was his son. His son.

He heard music blaring and saw people moving around the kitchen. Guys of the football player species. Michael was having a party. Great parenting.

I can be a better father than that, Max thought, determination coursing through his veins. Maybe he could go be Dylan’s dad, and maybe that would be enough to save him, to keep him from breaking apart.

Irrationally, he pulled open his glove compartment, where he had stashed a portion of his coke. He wanted it with him at all times. At home, in between destinations . . . he didn’t want to be without it. When he was high, he was confident, self-assured. He was the Max Evans who was proud to be an Evans, because he lacked the common sense to question it.

He didn’t want to question anything anymore.

Hurriedly, he grabbed his stash and got out of the car, arranging sloppy lines on the hood of the vehicle. Hidden in the shadows, he allowed himself to spiral back down to the depths of his own personal hell.


Trying to concentrate on the book she was reading was difficult for Tina. Not only was it not very interesting, but Michael and his friends were making so much noise downstairs that it was distracting. Dylan didn’t hear a word of it, though. He was lying in bed beside her, sleeping.

She had thought about moving him into Michael’s room so that she could have her whole bed to herself, but what was the point? She wasn’t tired. She was just . . . kinda bored.

As if it were a cure to boredom, her phone rang. She glanced at the screen and saw that it was Todd. Her heart fluttered with anticipation, and she answered it. “Hi,” she said, trying to sound calm and normal. Not an easy thing to do when she liked talking to her boyfriend so much, when she wanted to talk about that kiss in the back of the classroom the other day, the one she hadn’t even told Michael about, because she knew he’d complain that she was growing up too fast.

“Hey, Tina,” Todd said. “Can you talk?”

She looked down at Dylan, who was stirring slightly now. She’d probably wake him up if she talked too much. But there was no way she was putting down that phone.

“Yeah, I can talk,” she said, shifting out of the bed. She slipped out of the bedroom, carefully shutting the door so Dylan could keep sleeping.

“How’s it goin’?” he asked.

“Good,” she said, heading into the bathroom. “My brother’s having a party.” She turned on the overhead light and shut the door so she could talk to her boyfriend in privacy and block out all that noise from downstairs.


Maria pressed her head against the window of the van, watching as the world zoomed past. Or rather, as they zoomed past the world. She didn’t know what California city they were in right now—just a small one in between big ones. But it was beautiful, and even though the van was cramped, she was happy to be there.

“Tired?” Leah asked.

She smiled. “No. Tonight was awesome.”

“Yeah, it was a good crowd. They loved your ‘Unchained Melody’ cover.”

Maria smiled fondly, thinking of Michael. That was the only part about this little excursion that sucked, being away from him and Dylan. “That’s my favorite song,” she said.

“It’s a hard one to sing,” Leah said. “I can’t hit that one high note.”

“Well, I was a little shaky on it,” Maria acknowledged.

“No, I thought it sounded good.”

“Thanks.” The crowd must have thought it sounded good, too, because they had stood up and applauded her. A couple people had found her on her way out and told her how good they thought she was.

God, even if this was the best it ever got, she needed more nights like this.

“Nice mood ring,” Leah commented suddenly.

“Huh?” She looked down at her left hand. Tina’s mood ring was still taking the place of her engagement ring. “Oh, thanks. I lost my engagement ring, so Michael’s sister gave me this as a replacement.”

“You lost your engagement ring?” Leah’s eyes widened in horror.

“Yeah, a few days ago. Lost it down the sink.”

“Oh.” Leah grimaced. “That’s rough.”

“Yeah.” She still felt bad about it. Michael had spent all that money, and it had been such a pretty ring. How could she have been so careless with it?

“Mood rings are cool, though,” Leah said. “What’s orange stand for?”

Maria glanced down at the ring, taking a closer look. There it was, that vibrant orange again. It was just a stupid ring; there was no way it could really tell how she was feeling. But she answered Leah’s question anyway. “Worried.”

“Really?” Leah gave her a confused look. “Well, what are you worried about?”

She thought about it, thinking that maybe there was something. But if there was, she couldn’t put her finger on it. “I have no idea.”


Heart racing, Max practically fell into the Guerin house through the backdoor. Nobody was there to notice him, which was a damn good thing since he was so fucking noticeable. He was moving fast, even twitching. Side effect of the cocaine. It sped up everything. When he was on it, he talked fast, moved fast, even thought fast.

He wiped a sheen of sweat off his forehead, not even sure where it had come from, and held onto the wall as he made his way through the hallway to the staircase. He peered around it uber-slowly, paranoid that someone would spot him there.

Oh, yeah, paranoia. Another thing the cocaine heightened.

He forced himself to stop shaking and casually strolled upstairs as the guys in the kitchen continued their rousing game of beer pong. He couldn’t even spot Michael among them, but he knew he had to be there.

He tried to step slowly and lightly, but his body would just not cooperate. It wanted to run, to race up to the top of the stairs and get what he came there for. So he did.

He flung open the door to the bedroom he recalled to be Michael’s. Or Michael’s and Maria’s. Whatever. Screw both of them.

The room was dark and empty, so he went over to the bed and sat down. This is where they fuck, he thought, not even sure why he was thinking it. He wasn’t envious of Michael in that way. Or . . . maybe he was, just a little bit, but only because he hated losing, even if it was just losing Maria.

He breathed heavily and scratched at his arms. His skin felt itchy, but when he touched it, it was so slick with sweat.

He laughed a little, but he didn’t know what he was laughing about.

Then he thought he heard someone coming upstairs, so he ran to the door to shut it. But there was no one there.

Then he considered brazenly walking downstairs and taunting Michael just for the hell of it. But he decided not to, because there was something more important he wanted to do. Way more important.

He left their bedroom and stood in the middle of the hallway, feeling dizzy for a moment. Once it passed, though, he zoned in on the sounds he heard coming from the bathroom. Conversation. Just one voice, though. The little girl. She was talking on the phone. Dylan definitely wasn’t in there.

What if he wasn’t anywhere? What if he was staying somewhere else that night? Max felt panicked by the thought, and it actually made him want to cry. But he forced himself to calm down and went to the closed door next to the bathroom. Fingers shaking, he struggled to grasp the doorknob. Finally, he turned it ever so slightly and peeked inside.

The light was on in this room. And the bed was not empty. Dylan lay there on his side, all blonde hair and blue pajamas. This couldn’t have been his room, though, right? It was so girly. Probably the sister’s room. Obviously he felt comfortable there, though, if he was fast asleep.

Max’s heart started to thud in his chest like a giant bass drum. He walked around to the side of the bed and looked down at his son, resisting the urge to just lift him out of that bed and carry him downstairs.

“Hey, Dylan,” he said, rubbing his shoulder. “Dylan, wake up.”

Dylan murmured but didn’t open his eyes.

Max smoothed his hair back from his sticky forehead, knowing he must look like a crazy person right now. He didn’t want to freak the kid out. But wasn’t that kind of inevitable?

Kneeling down beside the bed, he nudged his arm again. “Wake up, Dylan.” They had to get out of there fast. Someone would come upstairs soon enough and find them. He just knew it. There were people in this house who were out to get him, out to ruin his whole damn life, even though it was already ruined.

Didn’t they get that? His life was a piece of shit. He wasn’t asking for much. All he wanted was just a little time with a little boy he should have gotten to know years ago. It would make him feel better, have less regret.


Slowly at first, Dylan’s eyes opened. When he caught sight of Max, he immediately became afraid. He sat up, curled himself into a ball, and stared at him with wide, fearful eyes.

“Don’t be afraid,” Max told him. “It’s just me.” He tried to smile.

Dylan didn’t look any more at ease. “Who you?” he squeaked out.

I’m a stranger, Max thought. I’m strange. “It’s just me,” he repeated, thinking for some reason that, if he said it enough, maybe it would start to mean something.

Dylan looked around the room, obviously wanting help. “Daddy?” he called.

That’s me, Max thought. He wanted to say it. But he didn’t want to freak Dylan out or confuse him more. He just had to get him out of that house, that house of lies, and then he could get him to understand the truth, get him to know who he was so he wasn’t a scary stranger anymore.

“Your daddy wants to spend some time with you,” Max said. And hell, it was technically the truth. “Would you like that?”

Dylan just stared at him for a few seconds, then nodded slowly.

“Yeah?” He smiled shakily, second-guessing himself suddenly. Why had he come here? Wasn’t this wrong?

Oh god. He was high, so his sense of right and wrong was even more skewed than it usually was.

Too late to back out now.

“Come on,” he said, holding out his hand.

Dylan moved backward on the bed, still hesitant.

Don’t be afraid of me, Max thought desperately. Please. “Hey, you wanna hang out with your dad, right?” he said.

Dylan nodded eagerly, still nervous-looking.

“Then come with me,” Max said. “I’ll make sure you get to spend a lot of time with him.”

Looking like he didn’t know what to do, Dylan reluctantly took Max’s hand and got out of bed. Max’s heart leapt with an agonized sense of joy as they walked together out of the bedroom.

TBC . . .


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