Gold Diggers (Adult, AU, CC, Mature) Complete 09/22

Finished stories that feature the characters from the show, but there are no aliens. All fics completed on the main AU without Aliens board will eventually be moved here.

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nibbles2
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Gold Diggers - Chapter 55

Postby nibbles2 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:40 pm

Earth2Mama Yes, Michael and Maria are a slow burn, but Michael is making good progress back into Maria's good books and there's some nice stuff between them in the not too distant future.

Alien_Friend See, this is why I can't finish this damn fic, because everybody is rooting for me not to.

keepsmiling7 I think Liz will get over the snoring comment, eventually.

sarammlover I don't think that Isabel is going to make any real progress in kicking her habit until she can admit to herself that she has a problem.

FSU/MSW-94 It was nice to give Max and Liz a cute scene like that because they've had so few. They get to be a normal couple now, for a while.

mddk98 Me too.

Natalie36 Not only are they not for headaches, but they're not even the pills that Isabel was taking before anyway. So who knows what the hell Isabel is taking.



Gold Diggers – Fifty-Five

Amy Deluca parked her car in front of the Pasternick's house, two doors diagonally across from Alex's home.

Alex could see his mother in the front yard tending her flower beds. His father's car was parked in the driveway.

“If you like, we can go back to my place to freshen up and get something to eat first,” Amy suggested when Alex showed no sign of exiting the car.

He shook his head. “Thanks, I'm fine, I just need a minute.”

Amy said nothing as she waited patiently. Alex was extremely grateful to her. She seemed to understand his nervousness about his reunion with his parents better than Liz and Maria did, and hadn't pushed him to talk like the two girls always tried to do. Instead, she'd kept up a steady stream of chatter throughout the three hour drive, mostly about Maria and Maddie. It had helped Alex to quench his nerves, though he'd had to bite his tongue whenever she talked about Michael. It was ironic that Amy, who never liked any of Maria's boyfriends before, was crazy about the second worst guy she'd ever been involved with.

Realizing that he couldn't put it off any longer, Alex opened the car door and put one foot out and then the other. He took a fortifying breath and pushed himself out of the car. He grabbed his overnight bag from the back seat and leaned down to speak through the lowered window. “Thanks for the ride, Amy.”

“No problem, Alex. And remember, I'm just a couple of blocks away if you need anything.”

He nodded his thanks and stood back as she drove away.

Then he crossed the street and approached his old home. It was almost two years since he'd last been there. It hadn't changed a bit.

His mother looked up as he came closer and her eyes widened in surprise. She stood up and waited in trepidation.

“Hi, Mom,” Alex said with a small, hopeful smile.

Gloria gave a strangled cry as she threw herself at Alex and wrapped her arms around him. She was sobbing and laughing as she kissed his cheek repeatedly. She stood back them to take in his tall frame, then hugged him again.

Alex felt his eyes tear up as it hit him just how much he'd missed her. “I'm sorry, Mom. I'm so sorry,” he said guiltily.

“Oh, Alex... it doesn't matter. You're home now,” she smiled up at him. “You... you are home?”

He nodded. “Yes.”

Fresh tears rolled down his mother's cheek. She grabbed his hand and pulled him into the house. “Charles, Charles,” she yelled.

Alex's father appeared from the kitchen grumbling about the way his wife was yelling at him, but he stopped the moment he clapped eyes on his son. “Alex!”

“Hi, Dad.”

His father come forward slowly and uncertainly before pulling Alex into a bone crushing hug. “Son, it's so good to see you.”

They pulled him into the kitchen to examine him more closely. They both agreed that Alex was thinner now, that he looked older and more mature. They both thought he needed a haircut. It wasn't until Alex told them that he was hungry that they stopped looking at him like he was a museum artifact and started acting normally again.

Charles Whitman made lunch and they gathered around the table together for the first time in two years.

“We were so sorry to hear about your center, Alex,” his mother said. “You were doing such amazing work there.”

“What happened?” his dad asked.

“I uh... I had a run in with the Evans family. They didn't care for the presence of the center.”

His parents paled and exchanged a look.

“I think maybe it's time that we talked about that,” Alex suggested. “My mother - Lucinda, I mean. And her connection with David Evans.”

Charles put down his sandwich and nodded solemnly. “Yes. You're right.”

“We should have been honest with you,” Gloria said. “We shouldn't have tried to keep the truth from you. We're so sorry, Alex.”

“Can you tell me the truth now? I heard a story... if it's true then... I need to know the real story about her.”

“It's not a nice story, Alex,” his father cautioned.

“I know,” Alex nodded. “I'm ready for that.”

“The article you read about her was almost completely false,” Charles said. “I spread the story about her helping destitute women because I didn't want people to know the truth. I didn't want you to know the truth. And then when the reporter from the local paper heard it and wanted to do a feature on her, I had to keep it up.”

“We did mean to tell you that you were adopted,” Gloria chimed in. “But we knew you'd have questions and we were afraid to tell you because we didn't want you to know what she was really like.”

Again, Alex nodded. He'd worked that much out for himself since finding out the truth about Lucinda. “You wanted to protect me, I can understand that. I just wish that you'd have told me that I was adopted. I could have handled that much.”

Charles hung his head. “The truth is, Alex, that I was ashamed of Lucy. I was furious and embarrassed by her and what she had done. You were the only good thing she ever did and I didn't want to... to sully you by telling you about her.”

Alex sighed. He'd been holding onto a small hope that Michael was lying, or at least stretching the truth, but that hope died with his father's admission. “So, she was really that bad, huh?”

“She wasn't all bad,” Charles said with a small, sad smile. “When we were kids, she was terrific. She was very smart. You definitely got her brains. She won a scholarship to the Winamen Academy when she was fourteen... I've always thought that's where it started.”

“Where what started?”

“Her greed, her thirst for money. We weren't poor by any normal standards. We had a very comfortable upbringing, we never wanted for anything.” Charles shook his head. “But once she started at that school, she changed. I never really understood why. She wasn't being bullied or picked on. She had lots of friends there. But she wanted what they had and was angry when my parents couldn't take us skiing, or build a pool or buy her designer clothes. She acted as if she was being deprived of something.

“When she went to college, we thought she'd get over it. But she started coming home in fancy clothes that she couldn't have afforded on the allowance my parents gave her. She was wearing expensive jewelery. She arrived home one Christmas driving a car that a 'friend' had loaned her. My dad discovered the registration papers were in her name and they had a huge argument about where she was getting the money from. She stopped coming home after that. She would only come for my mother's birthday. We learned that she'd dropped out of college.

“My dad went to LA looking for her, and... I never knew what he found out, but when he got back he acted as if he'd never had a daughter.

“We started seeing her names in gossip magazines then. Especially when she started seeing David Evans. It was the only way we knew she was alive. I tried to contact her, she would send me little notes sometimes but she told me not to visit.

“Then one day we got a call from her because she was in prison on charges of prostitution and solicitation. My dad was diagnosed with cancer three weeks later and he was dead within four months. My mother died a year later. I've always-”

“Charles,” Gloria shook her head. She didn't want Alex to hear him blame Lucinda for her own parent's deaths. She looked at her son to see how he was coping.

Alex poured himself a glass of water and sipped it. His stomach was churning. After listening to what Michael had to say, Alex had thought he was prepared to hear the truth about his mother, but hearing it from his father was different. He couldn't pretend that his father was exaggerating or lying. “Go on,” she said hoarsely.

His father cleared his throat and continued. “I went to see her in the prison, but she wasn't interested in seeing me. I couldn't afford to pay for her lawyer and when I tried to talk her into hiring somebody more affordable she kicked me out. Next thing I knew, she was released from prison and she was in the Bahamas. We found out that the Evanses had paid her legal fees. I never knew why.

“The next time I heard from Luce was when we got two plane tickets in the mail one day and a letter begging us to come out to her. When we arrived we discovered that she was pregnant. You were born two days after we got there. She told us to take you back with us. She had the papers ready and everything.”

“We had been trying to have a child for a long time and it just never happened for us,” Gloria said softly. “We were so happy to have you. We loved you from the very first second you were born.”

Alex smiled at her and covered her hand with his. “Thank you.” He reached across and took his father's hand in his too. He was shocked to find that his father was shaking.

They held hands in silence for a while. Charles stopped shaking and got himself under control.

“Lucinda died, and we didn't know how to tell you about her. So we didn't tell you anything,” he concluded.

Alex didn't ask about his birth father. He didn't want to know, it didn't matter anymore. Instead he asked about the money that had made up his trust fund.

“She had that set up for you too, before you were even born,” Gloria explained. “I really believe that she loved you, Alex, but she knew that she wasn't fit to be your mother. That's why she gave you to us.”

Alex leaned back in his chair, utterly exhausted. “Well, I think that's enough for one day.” He knew there was more, he could see it in their faces but it was too much. He'd has as much as he could stomach in one go.

His parents slumped in relief.

“Are you OK?” his mother asked.

Alex shrugged. “I'm kind of numb. I knew it was coming and I've had some time to kind of get used to the idea, but hearing it is still difficult. I get why you didn't tell me.”

“We just didn't know how,” Gloria told him. “It seems simple now, of course. We should have sat you down and told you like we did today. You've always been so strong and smart, you could have handled it.”

“I don't know if I was ready for it, before,” Alex said to assuage her guilt. “I didn't exactly handle the news that I was adopted very well.”

He cringed at the memory of the way he'd reacted so badly when he'd found the article and the adoption papers in the box in the attic. He'd flown into a fury and screamed at his parents before storming out.

He knew that his initial anger was justified. He'd been lied to his whole life. But, the way he'd acted afterward, refusing to see them or even talk to them had been cruel and unfair.

“I'm so, so sorry for how I acted towards you guys,” he told them. “You've always been amazing parents to me and I love you so much. I'm sorry for being a brat.”

“You're not a brat, Al,” his father said. “The last thing in the world anybody would accuse you of being is a brat.”

“We're so proud of you and of everything you've done for the past two years.”

Alex blushed, he didn’t feel that he deserved their pride after the way he'd treated them. “Thank you.” He pushed his glass away and stood up, bringing an end to the conversation. “Can I wash up?”

“Sure, let me show you to our new downstairs washroom,” his mother offered.

Alex followed her with a smile. She'd finally talked his father into installing a downstairs bathroom. He wished he could have seen that.

They didn’t return to their previous conversation for the rest of the day. Instead they talked about Liz and Maria, Maddie and Grandma Claudia. Gloria showed Alex the renovations they'd made to the house since he was last home. Charles discussed his work. He helped his mother in the garden for a little while and watched his father make his special Italian chicken recipe for dinner.

Afterwards, Alex took a beer out to the garden to sit on the swing and watch the night sky. His father joined him a few minutes later and they sat in companionable silence for a while, occasionally one of them would point out a certain star formation.

After about an hour, Charles stood up to go back inside, but he stopped and came back. “You know, Lucinda left money to Gloria and me too. We've never touched it. But, if you'd like to start your center up again, we'd love to invest in it.”

“Thank you. I'm not sure that I'll be doing it.”

“Oh.” Charles returned to the seat he had just vacated. “You don't want to try again?”

Alex shook his head, then shrugged. “I tried and it didn’t work. I don't know if I have the energy to try something like that again.”

“Have you any other plans.”

“No,” Alex sighed wearily. “I don't have any clue what I'm going to do now.”

***


Liz broke into a bright smile when she opened the door of her apartment to find Max waiting outside with a bouquet of flowers.

It was his one night off that week and he had to see Liz. “I know this is against the rules but-” the rest of his words were cut off as Liz yanked him inside and crushed her lips against his.

Max dropped the flowers and the folder he was holding and slid his hands around Liz's slim waist. He pressed her against the wall and devoured her.

The broke apart only at the sound of an obnoxious buzzing noise.

“What's that?” Max asked, picking up the flowers and the folder.

“Dinner. Hungry?”

“Yes.”

Max followed Liz into the kitchen and his mouth immediately watered at the delicious smells wafting from the oven. He watched hungrily as Liz took a lasagne from the oven. “Wow, beautiful, brains and you can cook. You're definitely a keeper.”

“This isn't cooking, this is reheating,” Liz laughed. “I can cook, just not to this standard.”

“Well, two and a half out of three isn't bad,” Max shrugged flippantly.

Liz giggled. “Knives and forks are in the drawer, glasses and plates are in that cupboard.”

Max quickly set the table as Liz dished out lasagne and a salad.

“So, how was your exam?” he asked when they were both sitting down.

“It was fine. Nothing unexpected came up. I'm pretty confident that this one's in the bag,” Liz smiled. “How was the first day of your course?”

“Horrible.”

Liz's face fell. “Oh no. Why?”

Max sighed. “It's just not me. I'm not cut out for it. Everybody else there has proved themselves. They're the brightest and the best, rising stars of the company. And then there's me, a pen counter.”

“Max, you're a lot more than that.”

“No,” Max shook his head. “Everybody else there had earned their place on that course because they've worked hard and proven that they have the ability to be there. I'm only there because my family owns the company. They all know what they're talking about, they know the business, they're ambitious. I was able to fake it because I learned stuff by heart the time those Japanese business men were in town but that will only get me by the next day or two. It won't be long before they all realize that I'm a fraud.”

Liz put down her fork and reached for his hand. “Your brother got you a place on that course because he felt you were ready for it. I know you. You're a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for. I know you'll do well.”

Max shook his head. “It's not that. I know I'll be able to pass it if I work hard and concentrate and don't mess around.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “It's just that they gave us a talk about what we'd be doing on the course and how it would help us afterwards. It honestly sounds like my idea of hell.

“Everybody else was thrilled with it because they want to be managers and executives. But, I don't, Liz. I think Michael's job is a nightmare. I'd hate it. I don't want to be stuck in an office, becoming an Evans robot. It's just not me.

“Sitting there today, it dawned on me that's what's going to happen to me. I'll finish the course and Michael will find some mid-level management job for me. It'll be tedious and boring, but I'll have to do it. Then after a year or so, I'll get moved up the ladder and become a junior executive and then a senior executive. I'll have a big office and my own assistant and I'll read reports and play golf with incredibly boring sycophants who just want a piece of the Evans' action and that'll be it for the rest of my life.”

Liz didn't know what to say but before she could even formulate a response, Max was talking again.

“I shouldn't complain because I'll have a secure job, I'll be well paid, I'll have a nice house, a nice car, I'll be able to take three or four vacations a year.” Max shook his head. “So why does it feel like I'm being sent to prison.”

“Max, if you really feel this way then talk to your parents and tell them.”

“I can't, Liz.” Max shook his head vigorously. “I've dropped out of college twice. I've never held down a real job. I'm a huge disappointment to them. I can't drop out of this course too. I can't let them down again. I don't want to be somebody who can't finish anything, or who never amounts to anything.”

“Max,” Liz broke in. “What do you want to do with your life?”

He shrugged, but there was something in the way he avoided her eyes that told Liz he did know.

“Max,” she pressed.

“I think, I'd kind of like to work with people.” He rolled his eyes at the vagueness of that reply. “I mean, I enjoy working at the home because I get to interact with the residents there. They're cool, you know? I think that I'd like to do something in that field. I don't know what exactly, but something where it's about people and not profits.”

Liz smiled proudly at him and leaned over to kiss him. “Max! That's wonderful.”

Max grinned bashfully. “Bet you never thought you'd hear me say that.”

“Not when we first met,” Liz admitted. She straightened up again. “You guys have a pretty important charity foundation, would you like to work there?”

“I guess,” Max nodded slowly. “But, truthfully, the work at the foundation is just as bureaucratic and clerical as everything else the company does. It's all about finding funding and approving funding. I want something that's more hands on and interactive. I wish I knew what that was exactly.”

“Do you think that your parents would disapprove of you wanting to work outside the company?”

“No, not at all,” Max told her. “I know that Dad always dreamed of having Michael and I work with him, but it's not a requirement. If I had a job and I liked it, then I know that he'd be happy with that.”

Liz nodded pensively. They lapsed into silence as they ate their dinner, each thinking of Max's dilemma.

“Can I make a suggestion?” Liz asked after cutting two slices of chocolate cake.

“Please,” Max urged eagerly.

“I did some reading, about your course,” she began. “It sounds like it's really prestigious. I read that people who've completed it have all done really well in your company and some have even been headhunted by other companies or started their own businesses.”

Max nodded in confirmation. They had been told how well graduates of the course had done during the induction day and it had been very impressive. Max had even heard of some of them without ever realizing that they were connected to the family company and others he knew of because of their work in the company.

“So, what I suggest is that you finish the course. It's only a few months, and once it's over you'll have something impressive to put on your resume, especially because you don't have any other qualifications. And also, it'll show your dad that you've changed and that you're serious about getting a job.”

Max nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. It's just a few months, I'll just have to suck it up.”

“And you need a plan,” Liz continued. “I think you should see a career guidance counselor. Get some advice. Do some aptitude tests. It can really help to sit down and explore your options and they might be able to suggest something that you've never considered before.

“Then, when your course is over, you go to your dad with your plan. You say to him, 'this is what I want to do and this is how I'm going to do it'. He'll be able to see that you've given it a lot of thought and that you're serious about it and that you'll follow through with it. If it can be done within the company, then that's great. It's a win win. If not, then like you said, your dad won't mind. As long as you have a plan.”

“It sounds so simple,” Max said, almost to himself.

“It is,” Liz nodded her head firmly. “Look, Max, I can't pretend to know what you're going through because I've known what I wanted to do since I was eleven years old. I can't imagine what it must be like not to know and not to have a plan. That would be the scariest thing in the world for me. I know there are some people who just wing it and they come out fine, but I truly believe that at some stage in your life you've got to knuckle down and make some hard decisions. And yeah, part of that means putting yourself through a course you don't enjoy, but it's only a few months and then you've got the rest of your life. Beside, you survived Nancy and the pen closet, how hard can this course be?”

“You're right,” Max said resolutely. His head bobbed in agreement and he slapped the table with his fist. “I have a plan. And the plan is that I'm going to make a plan.”

Liz giggled.

“Thank you, Liz,” Max said sincerely. “You've no idea how much this has helped me. It's like a fog has been lifted and the path is clear now.”

“Glad to be of service,” Liz smiled. “In return, you can do the washing up.”

“Aw, man!”

Max washed up and then joined Liz in the living room. She was curled up on the couch reading through her notes for her next exam.

“I should go,” Max said.

“No,” Liz protested. “Stay. I know what I said, but I don't want you to go.” She stood up. “Why don't you stay here and watch TV while I do some studying and then we can have an early night.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “ My exam doesn't start until two tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?”

Liz nodded. “Yes. Totally. I want you here.”

Max smiled and pushed back a strand of hair from her face. “Alright, I'll stay. But I have some studying of my own to do.” He gestured to the thick folder he had brought with him.

“I'll go into the bedroom and you can stay here and that way we won't distract each other,” Liz decided. She kissed him and skipped out of the room. She stopped in the doorway and smiled at Max. “I'm so proud of you.”

With a smile on his face, Max sat down on the couch and opened the folder. He ran his eyes over the first page and grimaced. It was so deathly dull.

At this point in the past he would have thrown the folder aside and turned on the TV, or more likely, he would have gone to find Liz so that he could distract her. This time, he kept the folder open and actually studied.

After thirty minutes, he heard Liz calling his name.

“Yeah?” he called back.

“Can you come here, please. I need a help with something.”

Max sighed, he had just found his groove with the whole studying thing and he was a little annoyed with the interruption. He put the folder aside and shuffled down the hall to her room in his bare feet.

“You're cutting into my studying...” His complaints died on his lips when he entered the room and found his girlfriend stretched out on her bed wearing nothing but a smile.

He pulled himself together quickly and leaned nonchalantly against the door. “How's the studying going?”

Liz shrugged, imitating his manner. “Meh, if I don't know it by now, I’ll never know it.”

“That's a good point,” Max agreed with a nod. “So?”

Liz wiggled her eyebrows saucily. “So.”

Max shut the bedroom door and threw himself on the bed to join her.

***

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nibbles2
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Gold Diggers - Chapter 56

Postby nibbles2 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:49 am

Thank you all for your feedback, I don't have time to respond to you all, but I really do appreciate it.

Enjoy!

Gold Diggers – Fifty-Six

Michael sat sipping his coffee and reading the morning paper, keeping an ear out for the sound of Maria and Maddie upstairs.

He wasn't really a morning person, but recently morning had become his favorite time of the day.

He and Maria had settled into a routine. He rose first, had a swim and a shower and then came downstairs to get his breakfast and read the paper. Around that time, Maddie would wake up for her morning feed and Maria would bring her down to the kitchen. Michael would feed Maddie her bottle as Maria ate her breakfast. She tended to be a little grumpy, but it was more to do with sleep deprivation than because she remembered that she hated him.

Michael enjoyed the time he got to spend with the two of them. He liked the sense of family their mornings together gave him. It was easy to pretend that it was real and to forget, for a little while, that Maria hated his guts.

Hearing Maddie cry, Michael stood up and prepared her bottle. It was ready by the time Maria shuffled into the kitchen, bleary eyed and still half asleep and with Maddie in her arms.

“Morning,” she grunted in his general direction.

“Good morning,” Michael said. He poured her a cup of coffee and then reached for Maddie and grinned down at her. Despite the early hour, Maddie was wide awake and alert.

Maria took the coffee gratefully and took a seat opposite Michael in the breakfast snug.

“Bad night?” Michael commented. He'd heard Maddie crying a couple of times.

“Yeah,” Maria yawned. “She woke four times last night.”

Michael made a sympathetic face. “When do babies usually start sleeping through the night?”

“It depends, they're all different but usually from about three months onwards. But premature babies like Maddie can take longer to develop and they're also finding that that metsophomine babies are taking longer to sleep through the night for some reason.”

Michael considered offering to take Maddie in his room some night to give Maria the chance to get a full night's sleep but the idea of being solely responsible for Maddie filled him with terror, so he decided not to.

“More cards?” Maria said, pointing at the stack of unopened mail on the table. They were still getting cards and gifts for their marriage and for Maddie by the dozen each day. Maria pulled them towards her and starting flipping through them.

Michael concentrated on Maddie for a while as Maria opened a couple of cards and read them. She passed one to him. “I think this is for you.”

It was an invitation to the wedding of the daughter of one of their biggest clients - A wedding that Michael would have to go to, and it had been addressed to both of them. It was another consequence of their marriage that Michael had never considered. Before, when he attended formal functions, he had been able to go alone even when the invitation extended to a plus one. Whenever the mood suited him, or on occasions when he absolutely had to, he took a date. Now, he would be expected to bring Maria to those things. To not bring her would be rude but he couldn't see Maria being willing to appear on his arm at all those boring events.

He sighed to himself.

At least there was three months until the wedding, and until then he could always explain that Maria didn't like to leave Maddie. Perhaps by the time the wedding happened, Maria would actually have followed through on her promise to try and be less angry with him.

He remembered that the bride was a school friend of Isabel so she'd probably get be at it too. “I talked to Isabel,” he said suddenly.

“Oh. How did that go?” Maria asked.

He shrugged. “Hard to know.” He told Maria about the arrangement he and Isabel had come to. “What do you think?” he asked when he was finished telling her.

Maria exhaled slowly. “It's not ideal... but I don't think you had any other choice. You got her to limit her intake of pills, to get help, even to stop taking the pills if she's told to by a doctor. Those are huge steps.”

“But I’m going to be supplying her with the pills. Should I just flush them?”

Maria shook her head. “No. Right now she's going along with this because she knows that she's going to have a steady and consistent supply. You've gained her trust and she's agreed to get help. If you break that trust, it's gone. She'll turn her back on your agreement and she'll probably never listen to you again.”

Michael nodded. “That makes sense. I just wish that I didn't feel like a drug supplier.”

“Find her a doctor as quickly as you can. I can ask somebody at the hospital to recommend somebody.”

“Tess found a guy, Doctor Badawi. He's supposed to be the best. He's based in New York but he has a clinic here in LA too. Isabel has an appointment with him in a couple of days.”

“That's good. I really hope he can help her,” Maria said sincerely.

“Thanks, Maria,” Michael said. He glanced at his watch and handed Maddie over to her. “I better get going. I'll see you later.”

“Have a good day,” Maria called to his retreating back.

Michael smiled to himself in the elevator. Mornings were definitely his favorite time of the day.”


***



Max was so relieved when lunchtime came. The morning had been intense. His brain was about to go into meltdown from all the information that had been thrown at him that morning. Four days into the course and he had learned more about his family's company than he'd soaked up in a lifetime.

He'd never thought that learning would be more difficult than physical labor, but he was absolutely exhausted. His brain hurt. He wanted to curl up in bed for a while, but he had an hour before they were back again. This time to discuss tax laws. His blood ran cold at the thought.

He switched on his phone and saw two messages waiting for him; one from Michael asking him to have lunch together and the second from Liz saying that she was pleased with that morning's exam.

“Max, we're going to grab lunch out of the building today. You want to come with?” Greg, one of the guys on the course with him asked.

“I'm having lunch with my brother today, but next time,” he said in a friendly manner. He was aware that people were treating him differently because of who he was, though they were slowly coming around to treating him as one of the guys.

Another colleague joined them and flashed Max a smile and a decent view of her ample cleavage. “Max, are you coming with us for lunch?” Her names was Kristen or Kirsten, he could never remember which. She seemed very beautiful, smart and organized, but spent most of her time trying to flirt with him. He did his best to ignore her blatant come-ons. Not that long ago, he would have dragged her into a closet or an empty office and taken her up on her offer but now he hadn't even considered doing anything with her. Apart from one perfunctory once-over when they'd first met, she'd barely registered on his radar.

“Max is having lunch with the CEO today,” Greg informed her before Max could answer. His tone was teasing.

A couple of others in hearing distance made sounds of being impressed, though Max could tell they were joking. He laughed at them good-naturedly.

“I better not keep him waiting, see you guys in an hour,” he said before hopping into an ascending elevator.

As the elevator rose smoothly to the top floor, Max tapped out a reply to Liz. She had arranged a study group with some of her classmates that evening, and he was working at the nursing home so he wouldn't get to see her that night. He missed her already. He shook his head at his own sappiness, but truthfully he didn't care. He was crazy about Liz and he didn't want to change a thing.

Tess waved him into Michael's office where there was a spread of sandwiches, cold cuts, fresh fruit and drinks waiting for him.

“Hey Max,” Michael greeted. “Help yourself.”

Max helped himself to a sandwich and a coke. “Thanks. How's everything?”

“Pretty good. I think I'm finally getting on top of the backlog,” Michael sighed. He closed the report he was reading and joined Max on the armchairs. “How's the course going?”

“It's pretty tough, but I'm doing ok, I think.”

Michael waved a piece of paper. “Guess what I've got.”

Max didn't like the smirk on his brother's face. “Herpes.” He joked.

“No,” Michael made a face, then smirked again. “No, Nancy's evaluation of you.”

“Oh, crap,” Max's eyes widened in terror. “How bad is it?”

“Really bad,” Michael said seriously, though there was a lot of laughter in his eyes. “You're careless, sloppy, slow and 'clearly not cut out for an executive position'. I'm not sure how she reached that conclusion. Oh, she gave you a three.”

“Out of five,” Max said hopefully.

Michael laughed. “Out of ten.”

Max slumped, he hadn't exactly been expecting a glowing report from Nancy but he had hoped that it was at least decent enough to prove to his father that he was serious. It was important for his long term plans.

“Read this one,” Michael said with barely contained glee and slid another page over to him. Max thought it had to be about thirty years old but the writing was recognizably Nancy's. The top was folded down to cover the employees identity.

The evaluation form was even more damning than his own, with words like 'abysmal', 'incompetent' and 'inadequate' jumping out at him. The unfortunate employee had only been given a mark of two out of ten.

“Wow. Who was that poor sucker?”

Michael unfolded the top of the page to reveal Philip Evans.

“Philip Evans! Dad!” Max stared at his brother in astonishment.

“I know!” Michael was practically bouncing in his seat. “I'm going to frame that and put it on my wall.”

“Where did you get this?” Max asked in disbelief. He read it again and try to equate the terrible evaluation to the brilliant business man he knew his father to be.

“I got Tess to get somebody to dig it out for me. I always knew it was bad, but never thought it was that bad.”

Laughter bubbled up in Max's throat. He looked back at his own evaluation form and his laughter faded. “You know the really annoying thing? It's that I really tried to do a good job down there.”

“Don't worry about it, the only evaluation that Dad will really care about is mine, and I'm a lot more impressed with you than Nancy was. The highest she's ever marked anybody was a four and we fired that woman for stealing a few years later.”

“That's a relief,” Max sighed. He grinned. “Can I see yours?”

Michael scoffed. “I never got one. Dad tried to put me down there when I first started here. I lasted five minutes, until she told me what I was expected to do, then I excused me self, marched right up here and told Dad that I had graduated top of my class from Stanford and that if he didn't give me a real job, there were plenty of companies that would love to have me.”

“I don't think that would have worked for me,” Max joked.

“Probably not,” Michael agreed. He turned serious then. “Actually, there was another reason that I wanted to have lunch with you.”

“Oh?”

“It's about Isabel. You know that doctor I've arranged for her to see?”

Max nodded. He knew from Michael's tone that it wasn't going to be good. After Michael had told him about the deal he and agreed with Isabel, Max had been hopeful that she would finally be able to beat her dependence on the pills she took. If something prevented her from getting the help she needed now, he didn't know if they could get her to agree to anything else.

“He had to go to Malaysia. A relative of his died there so he's going to attend the funeral. He won't be back until next week. Isabel has the first available appointment with him, but it's six days away.”

“Damn. How do you think Isabel will react?”

Michael shrugged cluelessly. “I have no idea. She's been a lot more open about everything since I promised to help her and I really think that she's serious about solving this problem. But I know she's struggling with only one pill a day. I'm worried that if I tell her that she has to go another week, she might decide that she's had enough and not want to continue with our agreement.”

“But you have the pills, right? And she can't get them anywhere else, so maybe it's a good thing.” Max said. Then he considered the other options she had. “Which means that she'll probably seek other options, like something illegal.”

“Yeah. Any suggestions?”

Max rubbed his face feeling even more exhausted now. “Maybe we should get somebody professional.”

Michael shook his head. “Any time I try and bring it up, she shuts down completely. I don't think she'd agree to see anybody. It's just us, for now.”

“OK.” Max considered the options. “So, after work, we'll both go over there. We'll be as supportive and understanding as we can be. I think that's what Isabel needs most right now. She really does seem determined to kick her addiction. If we let her know that we're going to be with her every step of the way, then hopefully she'll stick it out.”

“There are other specialists,” Michael said. “Maybe I could take her to see one of them.”

“Isabel has built this guy up to be her be all and end all of her problem. I don't think she'd be willing to accept anybody else be her savior,” Max said.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Michael grinned at the wordplay before sobering up. “So, you think we should keep doing what we're doing?”

Max nodded in affirmation.

“Keep supplying her with pills that were probably obtained illegally and we don't know what the hell what kind of damage they're doing to her,” Michael continued. He threw his head back and groaned.

“I don't see what option we have,” Max told him. “If you'd hadn't taken those pills from her, she'd be popping them like candy. If you weren't letting her take one a day, then God knows what she'd do. She would look for something else to make the headaches go away, something worse than painkillers or cocaine.”

“So we're doing the right thing?” Michael asked dubiously.

Max sighed. “We're doing the best we can do for her. It's the only way she's going to get help, Michael.”

Michael nodded. “Right.”

“Whatever happens, we're in this together,” Max reminded him. “We'll find a way to help Isabel, I promise.”

***


Isabel lived for the evenings.

That's when Michael or Max would come by with the little pink pill. Some days, she would sit with her eyes glued to the clock, literally counting down the minutes until they arrived.

When they got there, it took everything in her not to let them see how desperate she was for the pill. It was hard, by the time they got there her hands were shaking in desperate need, her mouth was dry, her skin crawling.

So far, she'd done a pretty good job at keeping herself composed while her brothers were there, but as soon as they were gone, she'd collapse on her bed in relief as the little pink pill did it's magic. It was like going into a trance. Sometimes she would sleep until the morning came.

Other times, the pain would be worse and she would wake up crying in agony. She did her best to resist, but on those occasions she had to take something else. She usually knocked back a couple of Hepatrin, they weren't ideal and they only numbed the pain for a while but it kept her going until six o'clock when either Max or Michael would show up.

During the day, she watched TV on low volume or took a bath, or just stayed in bed. She couldn't face going out. There was too much noise, too many people, too much happening all around her. It made her head hurt. She preferred the solitude of her apartment where she could close the heavy drapes and shut out the bright glare of the sun and the noise of other people.

She'd visited her mother the day before. It had been physically draining. Afterwards, Isabel had been completely worn out. Her head had throbbed with pain so badly that she could barely manage the walk from her mother's room to the car, and from her car to her apartment. By the time she'd reached her bed, she'd been covered in a sheen of sweat and her whole body was shaking.

She'd been through this once before, and she was certain that it was harder this time. She was just thankful that at least she had one pill a day. Trying to go cold turkey would surely have killed her.

The time slowly ticked closer to six, so Isabel forced herself out of the bed. She dragged a brush through her hair and tied it up in a pretty headscarf so that nobody could see how lank and greasy her hair was. She applied her make up, with plenty of blusher to cover her pale and wan cheeks.

Then she waited patiently for the sound of a knock on the door. When it came, she stood up and put on her game face. She didn't want them to see how badly she was doing. If they saw, they'd just say that she needed to go to rehab or see a professional. That was the last thing that Isabel wanted. She wasn't addicted, and an addiction counselor would never believe that. She needed a doctor. She needed to see Doctor Badawi, he was the only one who could help her now.

She wondered which brother would show up that evening. Would she have to listen to Liz stories, or Maddie stories. She rolled her eyes. Like she cared about either.

Finally, the knock came and Isabel couldn't constrain the moan of relief. She stood up slowly and made her way to the door, wincing in pain. She took a moment to compose herself, to make sure that they didn't see how bad it was.

Isabel was surprised to find both brothers on the other side of the door, and she was immediately on edge. The last time they were both here, it had been to stage a lame intervention.

They came in and chatted for a few minutes, told her about their day, asked about hers. She feigned interest in Max's course and Maddie's health for a while until she could take it no more.

“So, want to tell me what you're both doing here?” she demanded.

Max and Michael exchanged worried looks.

Michael swallowed the bullet. “Isabel, Doctor Badawi had to go to Malaysia for a family funeral. He won't be back in LA until next week. You're the first patient he's seeing when he gets back.”

“Or we found another doctor who'll be able to see you on Friday,” Max added hastily.

Isabel closed her eyes and summoned her strength. “I don't want another doctor. You said that Badawi was the best. I want him.”

“This other guy is just as good,” Michael promised.

“You said that Badawi was the best in the world,” Isabel yelled. “How can this other guy be just as good. I don't want some second rate nobody. I want the best in the world. I need him.”

“OK, OK,” Michael soothed. “Then you're going to have to wait a week to see him.”

Isabel closed her eyes. She couldn't go another week of this. It would surely kill her. “Fine, but in that case, I think I need to increase my medication. I need two pills a day. I've been struggling with just one, but I've put up with it because I thought I'd be seeing a doctor this week. I don't think I can go another week.”

She watched as they exchanged worried looks.

“I don't think that's a good idea, Isabel,” Max said hesitantly.

“You shouldn't be taking these at all,” Michael chimed in. “We don't know what kind of affect they're having on you.”

“Isabel, maybe it would be best if you-”

“No,” Isabel shrieked, cutting Max off before he could suggest rehab. She took a deep breath to calm herself down.

She needed a plan. She couldn't get by on one pill a day, it would kill her. But she couldn't push for more because Max and Michael would see it as an excuse to put her in rehab. She needed to be clever about this.

There had to be another way to get her hands on the pills.

“Ok. You're right. I can wait. It'll be tough, but I can manage,” she said at last.

Michael and Max exchanged more looks, neither of them were certain she was being straightforward with them.

“I'm sorry,” Isabel pressed. “I know that I need to kick them and this is the right way to do it, but my body is still telling me it needs those pills. It's hard, you know.”

Max nodded and took her hand. “You know that you can always talk to us,” he told her.

“I know,” Isabel forced a smile. “I'm extremely grateful that I have two such wonderful brothers. It means so much to me that you're being here for me like this. It's the only thing that's getting me through this.”

It took a while longer and even when Max and Michael left, Isabel knew they weren't a hundred percent convinced, but she had been persuasive enough that they were willing to leave things as they were.

However, Isabel wasn't.

There was no way she was prolonging this agony for another week. She was in hell and if her stupid brothers wouldn't help her, then it was up to her to take care of herself.

She figured that the pills were being kept in Michael's apartment, so all she had to do was get in, find them and swap them for something else. Then she would be able to take the pills as she needed them and not as her brother's decided.

***

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 57

Postby nibbles2 » Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:43 pm

Hello Folks. Hope you're all having a lovely day.

Yeah, the earlier note was an April Fool's joke. I'm not going anywhere. I will finish Gold Diggers. I have no intention of abandoning this fic or leaving RF. And I don't even have a boyfriend. Sorry about that. I felt really horrible and mean after reading the lovely things some of you wrote.

That being said, there are some things happening in RL that are taking up a lot more of my time and thoughts lately. So while I am working on all my fics and determined to get them finished this year, it's not going at the pace I had set out for myself.

Also, I think it should be noted that I have updated all three of my fics this weekend which I think qualifies me for some kind of reward.


Gold Diggers – Fifty-Seven

Isabel had tried, she really had. But it was asking too much of her to get by on only one pill a day. It simply wasn't enough to cope with the intensity of the headaches she was experiencing daily. They were growing worse, probably compounded by the stress of knowing that she wasn't getting enough medication to deal with the pain.

She knew there was no point in asking Michael and Max to allow her to take more. They were so convinced that she had a 'problem' that they refused to see reason. Asking them for more, would just confirm their stupid, misguided idea that she was addicted to the damn pills. In all likelihood, if she asked for more, they'd decided to stop giving her them altogether.

Isabel was not addicted, but she knew that she couldn't go another day without a full dosage, and certainly not a full week. She was already in tremendous pain.

So, she'd come up with plan B.

Michael was at work and she knew that Maria was taking Maddie to the hospital for a check up and would be visiting Diane afterwards. That meant that their apartment would be empty for a good part of the day. There was only the maid to get past, and Isabel knew she wouldn't be a problem.

She'd gone out that morning and bought a couple of bottles of a multivitamin that she'd noticed was practically identical to the pills she needed. The multivitamin was a little chalkier, but she didn't think that Michael or Max would have inspected the pills closely enough to notice the difference.

She was worried in case Michael had told the building security team not to let her in, but the doorman held the door open and greeted her warmly when she arrived.

Outside the door to Michael's apartment, Isabel plastered on a smile. She was carrying an expensive vase filled with expensive flowers and in her purse, the fake pills.

Oksana opened the door and smiled at her. “Good morning, Miss Evans.”

“Good morning, is Maria home?”

“No, I'm sorry, she'll be out until late this afternoon. May I help?”

Isabel smiled again. “Well, the last time I was here, I broke a vase so I brought a replacement. Can I leave it with you?”

“Of course,” Oksana reached for the flowers.

“Can I ask a little favor?” Isabel asked politely. “Do you mind if I have a look at Maddie's nursery? I haven't gotten her a gift yet and I want to make sure that I get her something she doesn't already have.”

Oksana looked uncertain for a moment so Isabel kept her polite, innocent smile on until the maid stepped back and allowed her inside.

“I'll be fine, I don't want to keep you from your work,” Isabel said breezily. She skipped lightly up the stairs and paused at the top to see if Oksana would follow her, but she disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

Isabel smirked and let herself into Michael's room. A quick search of the room and his bathroom didn't turn up any of her pills, though she did find a bottle of Viagra. That raised an eyebrow!

She hoped that he hadn't given her pills to Max to look after. Isabel could just picture Maria kicking up a stink about having the pills in the same apartment as precious Maddie. Or perhaps he'd taken them to work with him.

Furious, Isabel picked up a pillow and used it to muffle her scream of anger. Damn them. There was no way she could get into his office, that Tess bitch guarded it like it contained the Mona Lisa.

She was about to give up and go when she remembered that Michael had an office here as well. Knowing there were steps leading from the veranda outside the bedrooms to the deck downstairs, Isabel slipped into Maddie's room and let herself out. She went down the stairs a quietly as possible and silently tried the door to Michael's office. It opened easily and Isabel sent up a silent prayer of thanks.

She found her pills in the first drawer she opened.

It was so ironic that after the hell she'd had to go through to get her hands on the damn things, that in the end all she'd had to do was open a drawer.

She poured them into the plastic container she'd brought with her and then replaced them with the pink multivitamins and returned the bag to the desk drawer.

She heard the sound of footsteps outside the room and held her breath, expecting somebody to burst in and catch her, but the steps passed the room and Isabel relaxed.

She popped two pills into her palm and tossed them into her mouth, swallowing them dry. She closed her eyes and waited for them to do their magic. It was slower than normal, but Isabel figured that was because she was in such a high-stress situation. She stuffed the rest of the pills into her purse and looked around to make sure that nothing looked disturbed. Satisfied, she slipped back onto the veranda and entered the living room casually.

There was no sign of the maid anywhere. Isabel paused beside the bar. Her hands were shaking and her head was still thumping, she needed something to calm herself down. She looked at the contents of the bar, before grabbing the decanter of brandy and lifting it to her lips and gulping down two mouthfuls.

It had the desired affect, and helped soothe her overwrought nerves.

“I'm leaving now,” she called loudly.

Oksana came hurrying to show her out. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

Isabel smiled, “Yes.”

***


Liz practically skipped across the quad towards the spot where she was meeting Maria for lunch. She had just finished another exam and was feeling the excitement of knowing she was now over half-way through her finals and everything was going great.

She spotted Maria sitting by the water feature, talking to Alex and increased her pace. “Alex, you're back!” she exclaimed as she hugged her friend. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Alex patted her back and laughed. “So, how was the exam?”

“I nailed it,” Liz bragged.

“You've been doing a lot of nailing lately,” Maria teased.

Liz felt her cheeks flame. “Maria!” she hissed, but she couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.

“I'm going to go if you're going to start talking about your sex lives in front of me,” Alex warned.

“Don't worry, we're not,” Liz told him, eying Maria pointedly.

“You guys are no fun,” Maria grumbled.

Liz ignored her and bent down to peer in at Maddie. “Maria, I swear she gets cuter and cuter every time I see her.”

“Doesn't she,” Maria agreed.

Liz cooed over Maddie for a little longer before sitting down beside Maria and accepting the lunch that Maria had brought along with her. “So, Alex, how did things go with your parents?”

Alex sighed. “Fine.”

Maria and Liz exchanged worried looks.

“Doesn't sound fine,” Maria said.

Alex groaned. “No, really, things are fine with my parents. They were great and everything is back on track. You two were right, I was wrong to treat them the way that I did.”

“So, what's wrong?” Liz asked gently.

“They told me everything.” He buried his face in his hands for a moment before looking at his friends. “My mother was the devil. I mean, she was Evil. Capital E. The things she did...” He shook his head. “Michael Evans was being nice to me when he told me about her. His mother was just one example, but there were a hundred more just like her that my mother used and abused to get what she wanted. She hurt so many people. No wonder he hates me.”

“Oh my God, Alex,” Maria yelled, her frustration at Alex’s insistence for taking the blame on himself boiling over. “Why should he hate you? You didn't to anything, it was your mother.”

Alex shook his head. “I held her up as a paragon of goodness and virtue. She destroyed his parent's lives, almost destroyed his too. And I built that center under his nose and told the world that she was a saint and he was a monster.”

Maria looked like she was going to argue with Alex so Liz stepped in quickly. “Alex, you are not responsible for your mother's actions. Whatever she did, that is no reflection on you. Please don't judge yourself based on what she did. Look at what you did. You created a center that helped as many people as she hurt. You've done wonderful things and finding out the truth about your mother does not diminish that, one little bit.”

“She's right, Al,” Maria agreed.

“I feel like a fraud,” Alex admitted.

“You have no reason to feel like that,” Liz said emphatically. “You're such a good person, Alex. You're one of the best people I know.”

“Yeah, you were even nice to Pam Troy,” Maria pointed out.

The three of them shuddered at the memory of their former classmate.

“And she was such a bitch,” Liz recalled. “But you never once told her to go fuck herself, even that time she told you that you were going to hell for associating with the homosexuals.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “It's not the same thing.”

“No, you're right,” Maria said sardonically. “You're a total fraud. All the good, wonderful things you've done in your life mean nothing because a woman who you never even knew existed until eighteen months ago was a colossal dick.”

“OK, your point,” Alex conceded. “But, I still feel like everything I did at the center was a fake.”

“Alex,” Maria looked like she wanted to punch him. “Jesus! Look, you did amazing things at that center, and I'm not going to let you sit there and say that it meant nothing. So what if your mother was a cow?”

“We know that you're in a bad place right now, Alex,” Liz said, in a more gentle tone than Maria had been using. “You've had some pretty upsetting news and it's changed a lot of things for you. Take some time and work things out for yourself, and then you'll see that your mother's past actions have no bearing on who you are as a person on the work that you do.”

“Yeah, all you need to do is change the name of the center,” Maria pointed out helpfully.

Alex shook his head. “The center's gone.”

“But you can start again,” Liz said encouragingly.

“With what? My money's gone, I have no collateral for a loan. And besides, I don't think that I was cut out for all that anyway. The center failed because of me.”

“The center failed because of Michael Evans,” Maria pointed out indignantly.

“He had a hand in it, agreed. But, it was my fault. I didn't know what I was doing and I made huge mistakes. It was always going to fail. It only lasted so long because I kept pumping money into it. If I'd been smarter and let somebody else do the job, the center would still stand.”

Maria shook her head furiously. “No way. Michael wasn't going to let that center stay, no matter who was running it. He went for the kill and you had no chance. If he'd left you alone, you would have learned from your mistakes and made the changes you needed. But you couldn't learn because he never gave you the chance. You were too busy trying not to drown to ever learn to swim.”

“Maria's right,” Liz said with a nod.

Alex sighed. “Can we just drop this subject? I just need a break from thinking about it.”

“OK, good,” Maria relented. She could see he didn't want to talk about it anymore. She broke into a wicked smile. “Can we talk about Liz's sex life now.”

“Maria,” Liz and Alex groaned simultaneously.

“I'm going to go buy a doughnut,” Alex declared, seeing the determined look in Maria's eyes.

“Take Maddie with you,” Maria suggested. “Cute babies are a chick magnet.”

Alex laughed, but he took the handle of Maddie's pram and pushed it in front of him.

“What are we going to do about him?” Liz sighed as soon as he was out of hearing distance.

“I'm going to have a stern word with my husband,” Maria informed her. She turned back to Liz. “So, you and Max, go!”

“Maria,” Liz protested, but even as she did, she moved closer with a broad smile on her face. “It's amazing. I'm so happy. Like, I finally understand why Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch, because I want to do the same.”

“You're frightening me now,” Maria said, but she was smiling in delight at her friend's happiness.

Liz laughed. “OK, I'm not that insane, but I really can't help it. I just feel euphoric. Max is so amazing. He's sweet and romantic and wonderful.”

Maria shook her head in disbelief but she was smiling. “I can't believe that Max Evans turned out to be one of the good guys.”

“I always knew he was,” Liz smiled. “I mean, I know that I had my doubts for a while, but he has never treated me with anything but kindness and respect.”

“Good.” Maria was relieved to hear that. Since Max had appeared in Liz's life, she had been worried that her best friend was going to get her heart crushed by Max Evans, but Maria was pleased to have been proven wrong. Seeing her so happy right now, even with all the stress of finals and the worry for her grandmother, showed Maria that Max was good for Liz.

“You know what the most amazing thing is?” Liz asked. “It's watching him blossom. He's hated himself for so long and has been engaged in self-destructive behavior because he didn't like himself and now he's growing in confidence and self-belief. There's an amazing, wonderful man emerging from the spoiled, self-indulgent playboy.”

“Like a butterfly,” Maria teased.

Liz giggled. “Yeah. Not an analogy he'd care for, but it's kind of accurate. Once he was this slimy, jerk of a caterpillar and now he's...”

“A butterfly?” Maria filled in, laughing harder.

“No, now he's an adult. A beautiful, wonderful adult.”

Oh, wow. You really are channeling Tom Cruise today,” Maria laughed.

Liz blushed. “Everything else in my life is kind of crap right now. My grandmother is dying, I'm broke, I'm a stripper, I have to leave school and get a job instead of getting my doctorate like I always dreamed, my best friend is miserable, my other best friend is trapped in a marriage to a guy she hates... Max is the one good thing in my life so I'm going to enjoy it and be happy.”

“You're right, I'm sorry,” Maria said.

Liz grabbed her hand. “No, you're just teasing me, it's fine.”

“And I'm not 'trapped in a marriage',” Maria corrected. “I have issues with Michael, but we'll work them out. But that doesn't matter, because I have Maddie and as long as I have her, I'm happy.”

“Ok, good to know.”

“Things will work out for the three of us,” Maria told her.

Liz sighed. “I hope so.”

***

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 58

Postby nibbles2 » Tue May 15, 2012 5:42 pm

Apologies for the delay in posting this, for once it hasn't been due to major laziness on my part. Real life has just majorly sucked lately. But hopefully things will get better now.

Enjoy!!

Gold Diggers – Fifty-Eight

Max shuffled into Liz's tiny kitchen and blindly reached for a cup of coffee. The first sip almost burned his mouth so he set the cup down to let it cool a little. He leaned against the counter and rubbed his face. He was pretty tired, it had been a long tough day at work the day before and then a hard night at the nursing home. The elevators had been out of order and Ruben had him racing up and down stairs all night.

It had been late when he'd gotten back to Liz's apartment and although he was physically exhausted, he was still mentally wide awake and had ended up watching TV for about an hour in order to wind down before he crawled into the bed beside Liz. It seemed like he had only been asleep for a few minutes before his alarm had blared to get him up to do it all over again.

He yawned and picked up his coffee, blowing on it before taking another sip. He heard the sound of bare feet behind him and turned expecting to find Liz, but instead found Alex. They stared at each other uncomfortably.

“Good morning, Alex. I didn't know you were back,” Max said to break the tension.

“I got back yesterday,” Alex said. “Coffee?”

Max grabbed a mug and poured some for Alex. “Careful, it's hot.”

Alex accepted the cup and swallowed a mouthful, the heat of it didn't seem to phase him at all.
“I owe you an apology,” Alex said. “For how I spoke to you the other morning.”

“No you don't, it's fine,” Max told him quickly.

“No, I do,” Alex told him. “I've not had the best of experiences dealing with members of your family. But you seem like a good guy, you've been really great to Liz and I trust her judgment, so I apologize.”

“That was unnecessary, but thank you,” Max said. “I love Liz and the last thing I want to do is hurt her, so I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that never happens.”

“Good,” Alex said with a nod.

“And I understand why you would be wary of me. I wasn't a good guy before, I know what my reputation was like. But Liz has changed me. I'm a good person because of her.”

Alex nodded.

“And I'm sorry, about what my family did to you,” Max continued. “It was very wrong. But, Michael-”

“I know,” Alex sighed. “It doesn't make it right, but I do understand why he...”

They lapsed into silence again, this time it was more comfortable. It was interrupted a few minutes later by Liz. She smiled in delight to see the two men in her life seemed to be getting along. “Morning boys.”

They both greeted her and Max poured her a cup of coffee which Liz accepted with a smile. Her smile grew even wider when Max poured in the exact right amount of cream to suit her tastes. She leaned in an kissed him leisurely. “Mmm, I like having you here in the morning,” she said in a quiet voice.

“I like being here in the morning,” Max whispered in her ear before dropping a kiss on the pulse point of her neck.

“Sit, I'll make breakfast,” Liz instructed. “How do waffles sound?”

“Great,” Alex said. He jumped up suddenly at the sound of his cell phone ringing in his bedroom and jogged down the hall.

The clock on the stove beeped eight o'clock and Liz grinned, “Just think, this time tomorrow, I'll be starting my last exam. Yay.”

“We should do something to celebrate tomorrow night, I'll take you out to dinner,” Max offered.

“Um, I'm going out with my friends to celebrate tomorrow night, but how about the night after?” Liz asked.

“Sure, I think I can squeeze you in.”

“Great.”

“So, what are your plans for after the exams are over?” Max asked.

Liz sighed. “Well, I guess that I have to start looking for a job now since I won't be going back to complete my PhD,” she said sadly. “And back to work at the club in the meantime.”

“You know, I'm pretty sure that we have companies that do something in science and research. Want me to pull some strings?”

“I don't know...” Liz said uncertainly. She sat at the table opposite him. “It's not how I want to get a job, you know, by being the owner's girlfriend.”

Max nodded in understanding.

“But, if you know of any vacancies, let me know,” Liz said. “I'll pretty much consider anything at this point.”

“You know, I have heard that we have a vacancy in the stationary department,” Max joked.

Liz laughed and stood up again to finish making breakfast. “Hopefully I'll never be that desperate.”

She placed two plates of food on the table and yelled Alex's name before sitting down to eat her breakfast.

“I'll stay at my apartment tonight,” Max said between mouthfuls. “I'll be late getting in again and I don't want to wake you up when you have an early start in the morning.”

“Ok,” Liz pouted. “I'll miss you.”

Max grabbed her hand and kissed it. “I'll miss you too.”

Liz brightened. “But I might see you at the hospital tonight. I'm going to see Grandma Claudia later.”

“Cool.”

Max smiled again and leaned in for another kiss. He couldn't believe how much he loved this girl.

“Ahem.”

They parted slowly as Alex came back into the kitchen and grabbed his breakfast. “So, I just had a call from your brother's assistant,” he said as he sat down.

“Oh?”

“Yeah, he wants me to meet him on the Vine development site later. Any idea what that's about?”

“Not really, I'm just a lowly cog in the machine,” Max shrugged.

“What's the Vine development?” Liz and Alex asked at the same time.

“Oh, actually, I know this,” Max said happily. They had just been talking about it in class two days earlier. “The City is redeveloping the whole area in an effort to rejuvenate the area and bring employment back in. It's been done in phases. The Wilson Road development is the third phase and Vine was the first so it's almost ready to go. They've rejuvenated the whole area, restored buildings, built new ones. They're going to open it up to start-up companies, small businesses, artists, craftspeople. I think there's a college campus there as well. The idea is to create a new community and hopefully it will grow organically. I think the plan is that by the time the Wilson Road development comes on stream, the whole area will be more popular and more desirable so property prices will be higher. There's tax breaks for companies setting up in the area and our foundation is giving out a lot of grants as well.”

“So maybe he wants to show you a place for a new center,” Liz said excitedly.

“Great, and I'll use the spare change I found down the back of the couch to fund it,” Alex grumbled.

“I'm sure that you'll be able to get a grant,” Max told him. “If Michael is serious about making things up to you, he'll make sure you get a grant. And while I may just be a lowly cog, I can make noise too. We'll find a way.”

Liz beamed proudly at him before turning to Alex. “Isn't that great?”

Alex shrugged. “I don't know if it's such a good idea.” He pushed his plate away and stood up. “I'm going for a shower.”

“Is he OK?” Max asked when Alex was out of hearing range.

“He's just in a funk, he's been through a lot lately and right now he doesn't have any real purpose or goal,” Liz said. “I think he just needs some time.”

Max glanced at his watch and swore. “I have to go or I'll be late.” He pulled Liz to him and they kissed slowly. “Good luck tomorrow in case I don't see you tonight.”

“Thanks,” Liz said. “I'm going to miss you.”

Max kissed her again. “I love you, Liz.”

“Love you too, Max.”

***


Alex stood uncertainly at the site entrance, looking around. He peered through a gap in the hoarding, trying to see what lay beyond, but he could see little more than scaffolding and machinery.

Suddenly a golf cart appeared from behind a large bulldozer and zoomed towards the gate at such speed that Alex was sure it would crash, but it came slid expertly to a stop less than a foot from the metal barrier.

Alex old realized that the driver was female when she removed her yellow hard hat to reveal a tumble of red curls. His eyes widened in appreciation of her slim and pretty form.

“Alex Whitman?” She asked.

He nodded. “Yes. Cate O'Brien?”

She smiled and nodded. “Yes. Sorry for keeping you, but we have building inspectors on site today and they had a lot of questions.”

“It's no trouble,” Alex told her. “I just got here.”

It was a lie, he'd been waiting for fifteen minutes.

“Wanna hop on?” Cate asked, patting the seat beside her.

“Sure.” Alex took a seat beside her and she handed him a white hard hat. “This must be worn at all times on the site.”

Alex put it on and grinned. “How do I look?”

“Very debonair.” Cate smiled at him before releasing the brake on the golf cart and zooming off.

Alex clung on tightly as she zipped around the obstacles on the building site before turning onto a long street. His mouth fell open. It had been just over a year since Alex had last been on these streets, just before the Evans had closed them off and started working. The whole area had been decrepit and derelict back then.

Now it was completely transformed. Some of the buildings had been renovated to their former glory, others knocked completely and had been replaced with modern buildings. There were wide open spaces, trees and shrubs, water features, benches. It looked charming and unique and Alex couldn't help but be impressed.

As they sped along, Cate pointed out different features on the area, and Alex listened attentively.

Silently he cursed himself. He had planned to remain stoic and impassive, but here he was gaping at the sights like a slack-jawed tourist from the sticks.

Cate drove the cart through the main thoroughfare and slowed down so Alex could soak it all in.

“It looks ready to move in to,” Alex commented.

“Almost. We're waiting for the inspectors to pass everything, and there are other areas on the site that are still under construction and we don't want to open it up until it's all ready, but some of the tenants have started fitting out their units and so when we do open up the site in a couple of months, there will be businesses ready to start trading right away.”

“It's all very impressive,” Alex admitted.

Cate nodded and steered the cart down a side street and came to a stop in front of a three story building. Alex recognized it at once. It had been an hotel, once. He had looked at it as a possible location for his center before he had been given the building on Wilson Road.

Back then, the hotel had been pretty close to being condemned entirely. Now it looked like a brand new building. Clearly, it wasn't intended to be a hotel. It looked like an office building.

Cate parked the cart and climbed out. “Fancy a tour?”

Alex followed her up the steps and waited as she unlocked the building.

“We just finished this last week so it still smells a little of wet paint and varnish,” Cate apologized.

Alex nodded, but he barely heard her. He was too busy looking around, noticing all the changes and improvements. He was already visualizing how he could lay out the lobby to make it more welcoming. Cate lead him through the building, showing him meeting rooms, offices, a large dining room, a kitchen. They made their way up the stairs to where the bedrooms had been. Some of the walls had been knocked down to make a larger communal space. As Cate continued her sales patter, Alex pictured group therapy sessions, private counseling rooms, dormitories, private rooms.

He could feel excitement bubbling inside him, that old hunger and drive to create a space to help vulnerable young people, to do something worthwhile. He had to dampen down his excitement and stop his hopes from flying too high.

After a while Cate led him down the stairs to the lobby. “What do you think?” she asked.

“It looks great,” Alex told her.

“Think you'll take it?”

“I don't know... I don't even know why I’m here,” Alex told her.

“Oh.” Cate frowned. “Michael told me that you were opening a center for homeless teenagers here.”

Alex didn't say anything in reply. He wanted to talk to Michael and find out what was going on.

Michael was in the lobby when they got back there. He was talking on his phone but quickly ended the call when he saw them

“Thanks, Cate,” he said. “Can you excuse us please?”

“Of course,” she said with a smile. “I haven't shown him outside yet.” She handed Michael a set of keys, smiled at Alex and let herself out.

“Want to see the garden?” Michael asked. He seemed nervous, more unsure of himself than Alex had ever seen before.

“Sure.”

“This way,” Michael said. He walked down a corridor and unlocked a door leading to a large outdoor space. It had been planted with grass and plants very recently. They hadn't really started growing yet but Alex could see that it would be a lovely, peaceful space in a few months. He clamped down on the thoughts of how he could use this space and turned his attention to Michael.

“Maria told me that you said that you didn't want to open another center,” Michael began.

Alex nodded once.

“Can I ask why?”

“Because I’m exhausted. I don't have the energy to go through all that again. I wanted to help people, to help kids who had nobody else to turn to. But I spent most of my time on the phone and filling out application forms trying to get funding. I’m not a bureaucrat, I’m a counselor, I want to help people and all I seemed to do was run a business. And I didn't do a very good job of it.”

“It would be different this time,” Michael told him. “I wouldn't be trying to shut you down this time. You wouldn't have to spend all your time looking for funding because our foundation would provide all funding for you. You can hire somebody to do the paperwork. All you'd have to do is focus on the kids who come here. You can do this exactly the way you want to.”

“Why?” Alex asked.

“Why what?”

“Why are you doing this?”

“To get back into Maria's good books?” Michael half-joked. He looked away. “I keep thinking about Maddie, about what would have happened to her if she'd gone into foster care, or if her mother hadn't abandoned her. In a couple of years time, she could be one of the kids living on the streets with nowhere to go, nobody to turn to.

“You were doing something great at that center and what I did was unforgivable,” Michael sighed. “I want to make that right. This building is yours. The funding is already in place and I give a personal guarantee that you will always receive one hundred percent funding for this place.”

“One hundred per cent?”

“Yes. I mean, you'll be accountable to the Foundation and they can be very strict, but as long as you're open and transparent there won't be any problems.”

“I wouldn't be undertaking anything shady,” Alex snapped.

Michael suppressed a groan. “That's not what I was implying. I was just saying that you won't have any problems with them. Look, do you want to do this or not?”

Alex sighed and looked around at the burgeoning garden. “I'm not sure.” He walked passed Michael and back into the building.

“What do you mean you're not sure?” Michael asked, hurrying after him.

“I mean, I’m not sure. I told you, I don't want to go through all that again.”

Michael caught him by the arm and spun him around. “Look, Alex, it's not going to be the same as last time. You'll be able to run the center exactly how you want to, you'll have the time and money to do it right this time.”

Alex leaned against the reception desk. “The person doing the paperwork, would that be a management position?”

“Um... yeah, probably.”

“Would I be able to appoint whoever I want to?”

“Usually how it works is that the Foundation would form an interview panel and they'd choose the person. You would be on the panel.”

“And that's it? You'd just give me this building and let me run the center, just like that?”

“Yes,” Michael nodded.

“No strings? No conditions?”

Michael shifted on his feet. “One condition; you'd have to change the name. It can't be the Lucinda center.”

Alex pursed his lips thoughtfully and ran through the pros and cons in his mind. Michael waited silently. He looked around and grinned. Who was he kidding, he knew he was going to accept this offer the second he walked in and thought that the blank white wall in the lobby needed a mural.

“How about the Madeline Center?” he asked. “To remind us why we're doing this.”

Michael smiled. “Does that mean you'll do it?”

Alex nodded. “I want to see the contracts first.”

“Of course,” Michael caught Cate's attention and beckoned her inside. “Have you got the contracts for Alex?”

Cate produced a couple of files from her folder and handed them to Alex.

“Look them over, and get back to us. Cate will answer any questions you have about the building, and you know how to get in touch with me.”

Alex flipped through the pages and winced at the amount of text. “It might take me a couple of days.”

Michael grinned. “Yeah, that's why I have lawyers... I have to go, Cate can you stay with Alex and make sure he gets everything he needs?”

“Of course,” Cate said with a smile at him.

“Alex, I look forward to hearing from you,” Michael said. He nodded and left.

Cate watched him go with an adoring gaze before turning back to Alex. He rolled his eyes at her and wondered what Maria would think of Michael working with such a gorgeous young woman with such an obvious crush on him.

“So? What would you like to do now?” Cate asked.

“I think I’d like to take another tour, get a better idea about the layout,” Alex told her.

“Let's go,” Cate smiled.

Alex followed, this time he didn't try to dampen his excitement, this time he let it soar.

***


Max jogged quickly from his car to the employee's entrance of the nursing home. He was late and Ruben would give him hell for it. Thankfully there was no sign of his diminutive boss, so Max hurried into the locker room. There was a note stuck to the door of his locker. It was from the head of HR asking him to come to her office. He changed quickly and made his way down the corridor to the offices.

The HR door was open and he could see Susan tapping away at a computer. She smiled when he knocked on the door. “Hello.”

“Hi, I'm Max, you wanted to see me?”

“Yes, that's right....” Susan trailed off as recognition dawned in her eyes. She stared at him, Max held his breath and waited for her to ask questions.

She shook her head after a few moments and gestured for him to take a seat.

“Is there a problem?” Max asked.

“No, not at all,” Susan assured him. “Actually, the main reason you're here is because we're so pleased with you.”

Max felt his chest puff out in pride. He smiled. “Thank you.”

“A number of staff, and indeed some of our residents, have commented on how personable you are. I'm told that you spend a lot of time talking to the residents at night.”

“I talk to them while I'm working,” Max butted in. “I don't slack off, they like to keep me company.”

“It's fine,” Susan smiled. “Nobody has any complaints about your work. It's simply been mentioned to me that you're very good with the residents and that you make time for them. The residents appreciate it, there are certain other members of staff who seem to think that the residents shouldn't even be here.”

Max knew she was talking about Ruben.

“Do you like interacting with the residents?” Susan asked.

“Yeah, they're pretty cool,” Max said eagerly. “They've got really interesting stories and some of them have a wicked sense of humor. I enjoy it.”

“Good. The reason I ask is because we're introducing a new program here. As you may know we have a pretty extensive program of activities during the day, but after four the residents are usually left to their own devices more or less. It's become clear that there are a number of residents who would benefit from having activities at night time too. The program wouldn't be as varied or as active, but we would like to have staff here who would be there to talk to residents, play card games, maybe read to them.”

Max nodded to show that he was following along, though he was still unclear why she was telling him all this.

“So, the reason that I wanted to speak to you is because I wanted to know if you were interested in the program?”

“Uh...” Max blinked in shock. “You mean, be one of the evening activity people?”

“Yes.”

It was like a light bulb had come on for Max. Every fiber of his being wanted to say yes. It was exactly what he wanted to do. And not because it meant he wouldn't have to put up with Ruben, or he wouldn't have to clean toilets. He wanted to do it because he enjoyed it, because he was good at it, because it would give him a real sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Unfortunately, there was the small matter of his other job.

“Susan, I'd love to do it, but I'm not sure that I can,” he said mournfully. He explained to her about the course he was doing and how it would cut into his free time and how it was likely he would have to quit his job at the home.

Susan pursed her lips. “That's a real shame.”

“Yeah,” Max agreed. It was such a kick in the gut to have finally have a chance to do something he really wanted to do and to have to turn it down in the same conversation.

“I was thinking of going back to college and doing something along these lines, so that I could work in a place like this some day as something other than a janitor. When you offered me the job, it suddenly became really clear to me that this is what I really want to do.”

“Well I’m glad that I could help,” Susan smiled. “I'll tell you what, if you have any free time, I can see about getting you some hours here, even if it's just a couple of hours at the weekend. That way you'll have some experience on your application. I might even be persuaded to write you a letter of recommendation.”

“That would be amazing. Thank you. Can I get back to you about the weekend hours, it's definitely something I’m interested in but I have to sort out some other things first.”

“Sure.”

Max stood up and shook her hand. “Thank you, Susan.”

He smiled as he left the office. The rest of the night passed in a blur, he was so excited to have finally found what he wanted to do, kind of. He had spent so much of his life not knowing what to do with his life and now he felt like he had found his calling. It was a relief, and felt like the beginning of a new adventure.

He called Liz on his break to say good night and to wish her good luck for her final exam. He didn't say anything about the job offer, deciding instead to wait until they were in person and he could tell her the good news.

Around midnight, he finished his rounds and was pushing his mop and bucket back to the janitor's closet, whistling as he went. Every so often he would grab the mop and take it for a dance.

As he rounded a corner, he heard the sound of an alarm indicating that a patient was in trouble. He stood out of the way of two members of staff as they hurried towards the source of an alarm.

As he watched them disappear into a room, Max's stomach plummeted. He knew the patient in the room.

It was Claudia Parker.

***

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nibbles2
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Gold Diggers - Chapter 59

Postby nibbles2 » Sat Jun 09, 2012 3:36 pm

Hi All

Sorry for the delay in getting this chapter out.

You may remember me boasting about how I was going to get GD finished this year and then, nothing. Believe it or not, I actually wrote this chapter and the next ten back in January or February. Then my own wonderful grandmother got sick and I couldn't bring myself to post what I'd written as it seemed like tempting fate or something. Sadly, granny lost her brave battle against cancer last month. So you can imagine that posting this chapter has been very difficult for me. I can't even read it to edit it for mistakes. But if I ever want to get this story done, I have to post this and get on with things.


Gold Diggers – Fifty-Nine

Michael was hovering on the edge of sleep when his cell phone rang. He plucked it from his bedside table and groaned when he saw Max's name flashing up. “Yeah?” he said by way of greeting.

Max's speech was too high, too fast and too garbled for Michael to make any sense of what he was saying. He had to ask Max twice to repeat himself before he figured out that his brother wanted to speak to Maria about Liz.

“She's sleeping, Max. She's up three or four times a night with Maddie, I don't want to add to that,” Michael said.

Again Max's response was garbled and too fast but Michael caught the word 'emergency' so he climbed out of bed and made the short trip across the hallway to Maria's room. He tapped gently on the door before opening it slowly. Both Maria and Maddie were sleeping, so he made his way to Maria's side cautiously, guided only by the light spilling across the landing from his own room. He shook her gently to wake her.

“Wha's going on? Maddie?” Maria asked when she woke up.

Michael thrust the phone at her. “Max needs to talk to you,” he whispered.

“What?”

“Max, he needs to talk to you.”

“Where?”

“On the phone.”

Finally, Maria grasped what he was saying and took the phone with a very puzzled look. “Max?”

Her expression changed almost at once and she leaped out of the bed. She dashed into her large walk-in closet and started pulling on clothes as she listened to what Max was saying.

When she emerged she was wearing jeans and one boot, and had one arm through the sleeve of a back-to-front sweater. “Max, is there somebody there I can talk to?”

As she waited for Max to hand the phone to somebody she turned to Michael. “Hey, can you arrange a car for me. I need to go to the hospital.”

Michael went back to his room to call down to the garage. When he came back, Maria was once again talking to Max. “Max, I know it's her last exam tomorrow, but it's really likely that Claudia is going to die tonight and Liz would want to be there for that. The university will allow her to resit the exam.”

She waited for a moment as Max spoke again. “No, it's fine. I'll call Alex and he'll bring her to the hospital. We'll see you there. Thanks, Max.”

Maria hung up and blew out a deep breath then covered her face.

“Are you OK?” Michael asked.

“Yeah,” Maria said. She straightened up and he could see her slipping into 'nurse mode'. “Liz's grandmother had a massive heart attack and she's been taken to the hospital.” She stopped and looked down at her sweater. “What's wrong with this thing?” She took it off and pulled it on the right way. Then she called Alex to tell him what happened. They arranged that he would bring Liz to the hospital and meet her and Max there.

“Do you want me to drive you?” Michael offered.

“Uh, no. You need to stay here and look after Maddie,” Maria pointed out. She sat down to pull on her other boot. “I don't know how long I'm going to be, but I probably won't be back until morning at least. If you call Oksana first thing, she'll come straight away to watch Maddie.”

“Wait, you're leaving her here alone? With me?”

“Yeah,” Maria dragged her hair into a ponytail and grabbed her purse. “You'll be fine. Feed her when she wakes up, change her diaper and put her back down. You can do all that.” She leaned into the crib and gave Maddie a quick kiss before ushering Michael out of the room. “I'll give you a call in the morning when I know more. Good night.”

Michael followed her quickly down the stairs. “But, what if she gets sick? What if she's crying and I don't hear her? What if I do something wrong? Are you sure you don't want us to come with you?”

“Michael!! Maria exclaimed. “You'll be fine. Go back to sleep while you can.”

Then she was gone, leaving him completely and utterly alone with Maddie. All by himself.

He took a deep breath to curb the mounting panic and went back upstairs.

Maddie was still sleeping, completely undisturbed by all the drama. Michael checked her forehead and was satisfied that she wasn't running a temperature. “I can do this,” he whispered to himself.

He left both bedroom doors opened and lay down on his own bed, but he was too worried to sleep. Most nights he woke up when she cried, but there were some nights when he didn't hear a thing. What if she cried and he didn't hear her? She would be lying there thinking she had been abandoned. He couldn't do that to her.

After tossing and turning for a few minutes, Michael got up again and went into the nursery. He took the baby monitor to Maria's room and plugged it into an outlet as close to Maddie as he could get then took the receiver back to his own room. He lay down with the device beside his ear. All he could hear was static. He couldn't hear Maddie. He couldn't hear her breathing. He jumped out of the bed and ran into Maria's room to check on Maddie. He leaned close to assure himself that she was breathing then took deep gulps of air to try and get his own breathing under control. How did Maria do this every night?

He went back to his own room and lay down, but he knew there was no way he was going to be able to sleep. So he went back to Maria's room, checked on Maddie again and lay down on Maria's bed.

This was going to be a long night.

***


There was something sort of eerie about a hospital in the middle of the night, Max thought to himself as he made his way quickly and quietly to the ICU.

A nurse directed him to where Claudia Parker had been taken. Max stood in the doorway of the ward, uncertain of what to do. Liz was sitting at her grandmother's bed with Maria and Alex. His first instinct was to go to Liz, but he didn't feel that he should intrude as didn't know her grandmother and it felt wrong for him to be at her death bed.

Maria glanced up and spotted him and when she realized he wasn't coming to join them, she got up and walked over to him. “Hi Max,” she said quietly.

“How's she doing?” Max asked, he was barely able to tear his eyes away from Liz's distraught face to look at Maria.

“Not good. Claudia had another heart attack just after she got here. Thankfully, Liz didn't see it. I just hope that Claudia passes away peacefully. I don't want Liz to have to see her going through another event without the doctors intervening. It would be too hard for her.”

Max nodded. “How's Liz doing?”

“She's holding up, I guess.”

“Hey, I'm sorry about the phone call earlier. I probably made no sense. I was panicked and I didn't know what to do.”

Maria smiled softly. “You did great. Are you coming over?”

“I don't think I should. I never met her, it wouldn't be right.”

“I think Liz would like you to be there.”

“OK,” Max nodded. “But, can you give me a sign if you think I should leave.” He rubbed his ear lobe to demonstrate.

Maria nodded and led him back to the bedside.

Maria put her hand on Liz's shoulder. “Look who I found,” she said.

Liz turned and when she saw Max, she threw herself into his arms. “Max!”

She clung to him and he held her tightly. He could feel hot tears seeping through his t-shirt. He stroked her hair gently.

It was a couple of minutes before Liz disentangled herself from his arms. “Thanks for coming,” she told him weepily.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I thought I was ready for this, but I'm not,” Liz admitted. She took her seat again and gestured for him to sit beside her.

Max sat down, feeling uncomfortable. He'd never been in this situation before and didn't really know what to do. It felt wrong to be witnessing the death of somebody he barely knew, it was an incredibly intimate thing. But Liz reached for his hand and squeezed it before leaning her head on Maria's shoulder.

Max cast a look across the bed to where Alex was sitting. His eyes were red and he was clearly struggling to stay in control of his emotions. Max worried that Alex would resent his presence at Liz's side, but when Alex met his eyes, he nodded in appreciation.

They sat and waited, Liz's eyes never leaving her grandmother. It was difficult to sit there and wait for the inevitable to happen. Her grandmother's breathing was ragged and shallow and nobody had to be told that it would be over soon.

After a little while, Claudia emitted what sounded like a groan and Liz leaped from her chair. “Grandma?” She turned to Maria with hope gleaming in her eyes.

Maria shook her head sadly. “It's just an involuntary reaction,” she explained in that gentle tone that all nurses used.

Liz slid back into her chair and resumed her position, waiting.

It didn't take long after that, Claudia's breathing became more labored and the heart rate monitor was slow and unsteady. Max was grateful that somebody had thought to turn the sound off.

Claudia's end came peacefully. She simply slipped from sleeping into death.

Liz gave a cry of anguish and buried her face in her grandmother's bosom as her body heaved with sobs. Max felt tears rolling down his cheeks and he brushed them away in surprise. Alex's breathing was harsh and uneven. Only Maria remained dry-eyed.

A doctor slipped into the room, almost unnoticed by the group around the bed. Maria gently pulled Liz away from her grandmother so that the doctor could pronounce the death. Liz collapsed into her arms, sobbing her heart out. Maria nodded her head subtly for Max and Alex
to leave.

As soon as they were out in the corridor, Alex began to cry. Max stood beside him awkwardly before reaching out and patting his shoulder a couple of times. He steered Alex towards a row of plastic seats and slumped down beside them. He felt wrung out.

Max watched as a night porter flirted with a nurse down the corridor. He could faintly hear the sound of a twenty-four hour news station playing in a nearby room. A patient walked by dragging an IV stand and carrying a pack of cigarettes.

It was strange to come from the intensity of Claudia's room to see that life continued on as normal, that nothing had stopped to mark the death of such a remarkable woman or to take notice of Liz's grief.

Maria came to join them a few minutes later. “Liz wanted a few minutes alone with Claudia.” She put her arm around Alex and hugged him. “You OK, Al?”

Alex nodded, though he continued to cry.

Maria looked at Max over Alex's head. “Would you mind running down to the cafeteria and getting four cups of tea?”

“Tea.”

“Make it hot and sweet,” Maria instructed.

Max did as he was told, and came back fifteen minutes later carrying four cups of milky hot tea, laden down with sugar. Maria was sitting alone.

“Thanks, Max,” Maria said as she accepted the tea from him. “Alex just went to wash up and Liz is still in the room.”

Max took a sip of the tea and sighed. He wasn't usually a tea drinker and it was a lot sweeter than he would have like, but it was just what he needed at that moment. “Could the doctors have done anything, if Liz hadn't signed the DNR?”

Maria sighed. “They would have prolonged it. Claudia would have died full of tubes and wires, it would have been a lot more intrusive. It would have been a lot harder for Liz.” She sipped her tea and shook her head. “I can't believe Grandma Claudia is dead. I really believed that she would live forever.”

“Are you OK?” Max asked suddenly, realizing that Maria had been taking care of everybody else all night.

“I'm fine, thanks. And thanks for everything tonight, Max.”

“I don't think I did anything,” Max told her.

“You were here for Liz,” Maria said simply.

“Yeah, thank you, Max,” Alex echoed as rejoined them.

Maria stood up. “I'm going to check on Liz.”

“What happens now?” Max asked when Maria was gone.

“I guess we have to organize a funeral,” Alex said. “I know Liz wants to bury her her in Roswell alongside her grandfather and her parents. I'll call my parents in the morning, I'm sure they'll help organize things. Maria's mom, too.”

The door to the ward opened and Liz came out. She was walking slowly, her body hunched over as if she was in pain. The two guys sprang from their seats and ushered her to a chair. Max pressed the cup of tea into her hand. He sat beside her and stroked her hair. “How are you doing?”

“I'm OK,” Liz said in a hoarse voice.

“Do you need anything?” Alex asked.

Liz shook her head. “Maria said we'll have to wait for a little while to do some paperwork and then we can go home.” She turned to Max. “Will you come home with me?”

“Of course.”

“Oh, God,” Liz exclaimed suddenly. “What about my exam?”

“I'll call your school first thing in the morning and let them know,” Alex told her. “They'll allow you to sit it another time.”

“OK.”

“I'm going to go... say goodbye,” Alex said. He kissed Liz's forehead before going back into Claudia's room.

Liz turned to Max. “I'm really glad that you were here, Max.”

“I'll always be here for you,” he told her.

Liz gave him a watery smile then burst into tears. Max folded her into his arms and held her tight as she cried her heart out.

***

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 60

Postby nibbles2 » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:17 pm

Thank you all for your very kind words. These chapters are still kind of upsetting for me to read through so I'm just going to post and run. But I do appreciate all your feedback.

Gold Diggers – Sixty

Maria shut the apartment door and leaned against the solid wood. She felt emotionally and physically drained from the night. Now that she was home, she was slipping out of nurse mode and tears were beginning to from.

She knew that she probably should have gone back to Liz's apartment with her, but Max and Alex would take care of her. All Maria wanted was to see Maddie.

She hurried up the stairs and into her room, then froze in the doorway.

Michael was sprawled out across her bed in his boxers and t-shirt, fast asleep. Maddie was lying on the mattress beside him, wrapped in the tank top that Maria had been wearing when she went to bed that night. Maria frowned, wondering why the hell Michael had dressed Maddie in her clothes.

She rounded the bed and lifted Maddie gently into her arms and held her close. All the composure and control she'd had all night vanished, and the floodgates opened. Tears streamed from her eyes, blinding her and her body wracked with sobs.

Suddenly she felt a pair of strong arms come around her and guide her to the bed. Michael took Maddie from her and put her down in the crib then came back and put his arms around Maria again. She curled into his body and wept as he stroked her back and made soothing sounds.

Maria clung to him as she cried, her grief for her own loss as well as Liz's spilling out. Michael held her and let her cry. Slowly, her sobs turned to sniffs until exhaustion took over and she fell asleep against his chest.

The next thing Maria knew, she was waking up in her own bed. Her shoes had been removed and a throw covered her body. The bedside clock told her it was almost ten. She would have closed her eyes and drifted off again but her bladder was bursting, so she dragged herself out of the bed with a groan and made her way into the bathroom.

She was washing her face a few minutes later when she heard a gentle tap on the door.

“Come in.”

Michael entered the bedroom, carrying a mug of coffee. “I heard you moving around on the monitor,” he told her. “So I thought you'd like a cup of coffee. Or I can get you something else.”

Maria shook her head. “Coffee's good thanks.” She took the coffee gratefully and sat down on the bed.

“Your mom called, she's on her way here. Well, to Liz's place but I told her she could stay here. Alex called as well, he said he spoke to somebody at Liz's college and she'll be able to sit her exam during the repeats.”

“Thanks,” Maria yawned and stretched her arms. “Where's Maddie?”

“Oksana is bogarting her downstairs,” Michael said with a smirk “She won't let me near her.”

“How did it go with her last night?” Maria asked. “And, why the hell was she dressed in my pyjamas this morning?”

Michael blushed. “Oh, well... it was fine, except I found it hard to get her to settle after she woke for her feed, even though I'd changed her and burbed her, so I...um... googled it. And I found this site that said that she was probably missing you and it suggested putting her in some of your clothes would help her settle down because she'd be able to smell you. I know it sounds stupid, but it worked. She settled down after that.”

Maria's eyebrows shot up in surprise and she bit the insides of her cheek to keep herself from laughing. “OK. And why were you sleeping in my bed?”

“I kept freaking out because I couldn't hear if she was breathing over the monitor and I didn't want to move the crib, so I stayed in here,” Michael confessed. “We need to buy a better monitor.”

This time Maria couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled out. “We paid three hundred dollars for that monitor, there isn't a better one.”

“Then I'm paying somebody to invent a better one,” Michael insisted. “I nearly had a heart attack last night.”

“First night nerves, you'll be better then next time,” Maria assured him. “But, you did great.”

Michael smiled bashfully and changed the subject. “Hungry? I can have Oksana make you something.”

Maria nodded and her stomach made a weird sound to reinforce her answer.

Michael laughed. “Grab a shower and breakfast will be ready for you in a few minutes.”

“OK, thanks... Michael?”

He turned back to Maria. “Yeah.”

“Thanks for looking after me earlier.”

“No problem.” He gave her a small smile and left quietly.


***



Liz was awake but she didn't want to open her eyes. She wanted to pretend that she was still sleeping, that reality didn't exist. Because if she opened her eyes then it meant that Grandma Claudia was really dead.

She felt the bed move beside her and a hand gently brush her hair away from her face.

Liz rolled onto her back and opened her eyes. A tear rolled down her cheek and she brushed it away. “Hi,” she said hoarsely.

“Hi,” Maria said with a sad smile. “Mom made lunch. You should come and eat with us.”

“I'm not hungry.”

“I know, but you need to eat, Liz.”

Knowing it was pointless to even try and argue with the combined forces of Amy and Maria, Liz pushed the covers back and sat on the edge of the bed beside Maria.

“Did you sleep?” Maria asked.

“Not really,” Liz said. “I drifted in and out.”

Maria stroked Liz's hair waiting for Liz to draw the strength to face everybody.

“Where's Max?” Liz asked after a moment. Last time she'd woken up he'd been beside her in the bed, holding her tightly.

“Mom lured him into the kitchen when the smell of food and now she's interrogating him.”

Liz laughed a little. Poor Max. “How's it going?”

“I think she likes him.”

“Good.” Liz stood up but quickly sat back down again. She felt heavy, too heavy to move. “I can't believe she's gone.”

“I know,” Maria agreed. She leaned her head against Liz's and they sat in silence for a while. “Come on,” she said after a while and tugged Liz up from the bed and pushed her gently towards the bathroom.

Liz's stomach rumbled; despite what she'd said, she realized that she was hungry. “Actually, I could eat something.”

“Good.”

Liz brushed her teeth and ran a brush through her hair before heading to the kitchen. Max and Alex were sitting at the table eating lunch, Amy was washing up.

Amy immediately dropped the cup she was washing into the soapy water and held her arms out. “Sweetheart,” she exclaimed.

Liz hugged her tightly, relishing the motherly embrace. “Thanks for coming. You didn't have to come all this way.”

“Of course I did,” Amy said. She kissed Liz's cheek and pushed her gently towards a chair. “Pancakes.”

“Yes, please,” Liz nodded.

Max put his arm around her shoulders and and kissed her temple. “How are you?” he asked.

“You know,” Liz shrugged. She leaned into him, soaking up the comfort he offered. “Have you been up long?”

“A little while. You were sleeping so I didn't want to wake you. I’ve been getting to know Amy.”

Alex who was sitting across the table from Max laughed and tried to cover it up as a cough. “Amy's been getting to know you, you mean.”

“She's scary,” Max confided in a whisper.

“Don't you have to be at work today?” Liz asked Max.

“I called in sick,” Max said. “One of the guys is going to take notes for me. It's fine.”

Liz nodded. She turned her attention to Alex. “Were you able to get in touch with my school?”

“Yeah. They want you to contact them next week to discuss your options, but the woman I was talking to said that you'll definitely be able to take it on another date. You had to send an email, so I logged into your account and sent it for you.”

“Thanks,” Liz said gratefully. School and her finals seemed so insignificant right now, but Liz knew that it wouldn't last long. She was relieved not to have to worry about them for the moment though.

Amy placed a plate of food in front of Liz. The smell of the hot pancakes hit Liz's nose and she realized that she was starving and tucked into the pancakes with gusto.

Maria came into the kitchen carrying Maddie. She joined them at the table, Amy placed a cup of coffee in front of her and took a seat as well. They were all watching Liz as she ate.

Liz swallowed her mouthful of food. “It's really hard to eat when you're all staring at me.”

“Sorry,” they chorused. Maria and Amy turned their attention to Maddie while Alex pretended to read a paper. Max focused on his coffee but he kept one hand on Liz's knee.

Liz looked around at them gratefully. Her grandmother was dead, but she still had people who loved her. These people were her family now.

***


Liz tossed a damp towel over the back of a chair and grabbed a brush. She ran it through her hair a couple of times before pulling her hair up into a ponytail. She was feeling a little more human now that she had eaten and showered.

She could hear Amy’s voice carrying from the kitchen. She was trying to track down an old friend of Claudia's and was clearly having trouble making herself heard. Liz heard her mention the word funeral and winced.

The last thing in the world she wanted to do right now was organize a funeral, but it had to be done. While they had never discussed the possibility of Claudia dying, she and her grandmother had numerous conversations about her funeral. Claudia had been quite specific on certain points and it would take a lot of work to pull it off.

Her eyes fell on a photo sitting on her windowsill. She picked up the photo and sat down on the bed. It had been taken at her christening.

Her finger traced over the people in the picture. Her mother and father who died fifteen months later. Her mother's parents who had been badly injured in the crash that killed their daughter. They had both died before Liz was five. Liz had always believed they had died of heartbreak. Her grandfather smiling brightly, unaware that his body was being silently ravaged by cancer. He had died just four months after the photograph was taken. And Claudia, the only one of the six who had lived to see Liz grow up.

Claudia had never gotten over the death of her beloved Archie. Although on a scientific level, Liz didn't believe in heaven, she liked to think that somewhere, somehow, Archie and Claudia had been reunited.

A shadow in the doorway broke Liz's contemplation and she looked up to see Amy watching her.

“I just got in touch with River Dog's nephew. He said that River Dog would be honored to officiate at the service.”

Liz smiled. “That's good. It would mean a lot to Grandma.”

Amy nodded and sat down beside Liz on the bed. She took the picture from her hand and smiled at it. “I was there that day. Your grandfather got drunk and tried to dance with me but he couldn't because I was so pregnant that he wasn't able to put his arms around me.”

Liz laughed.

“They were all so happy that day. They were beaming with pride,” Amy said. She handed the photograph back to Liz.

“They're all together again,” Liz said sadly. And she was alone.

Amy covered Liz's hand with her own. “They all loved you so much Liz. From the moment that Nancy found out she was pregnant you were the center of their world. After your parents died, Claudia was completely broken-hearted. She had just lost her husband, and then her son. I thought it would kill her. All she wanted to do was lie down and wait to join them.

“Her sister, Justine, let her do that for three days and then one day, she just went out and left you alone with Claudia. And Claudia had to get up when you started crying, she had to feed you and take care of you.

“You brought her back to life. You were the reason she got out of bed everyday. You were the reason she didn't give up. She loved you fiercely and deeply. I don't believe that love like that ever really dies. It stays with you. Your Grandma will always be with you, Liz. They all are.”

Liz brushed away her tears.

“I've upset you,” Amy realized.

“No, you didn't. Thank you, Amy,” Liz said. She kissed Amy's cheek and smiled at her to show that she was alright. “I'm going to go for that walk and then I'll help you with everything.”

Amy waved her away. “Take your time, we've pretty much done everything we can on this end.”

***


Liz gripped Max's hand tightly as they strolled through the park.

It was a beautiful day and all around them people were enjoying all the park had to offer. The playground was full of young children, laughing and playing under the watchful eyes of their mother's and nannies. High school students were lying out on the grass attempting to study for upcoming finals. Some had given up the pretense and were either sun bathing or playing frisbee. Dogwalkers, joggers, elderly people cluttered up the footpaths and benches.

It seemed so wrong, that life should continue on as normal, that all these people should go about their daily lives as if nothing had happened when Liz's whole world had tilted on it's axis. It felt like it should be cold and raining, that everybody should be wearing black, that nobody should be laughing.

“You OK?” Max asked for the twenty-sixth time since they'd left the apartment.

“Yes,” Liz said patiently. She stopped walking and turned to Max. “Thank you, Max. You've been so wonderful to me.”

“Really? Because I feel so useless,” Max admitted. “I'd do anything to take your pain away, Liz, but I can't think of anything.”

Liz leaned forward and kissed him. “There's nothing you can do, Max. Just hold me and love me.”

“I can do that,” Max said. He wrapped his arms around her and Liz pressed her head against his chest. He dropped a kiss on her cheek.

Liz pulled away after a few minutes. “Come on, there's somewhere I want to go.” She led him down a path and out through a gate that led to a street, dominated by a large church.

“I didn't think you were Catholic,” Max commented as they mounted the steps.

“I'm not. Technically, I guess I’m Presbyterian but I’m consider myself to be a spiritual atheist.” Liz stopped at a large statue of the virgin Mary. It stood behind a large stand of votive candles. “I agree with very little of what the Catholics Church teaches, but I do like the idea of lighting candles as a form of prayer.”

She fished some money out of her pockets and dropped it into the collection box. Then she picked up six candles and lit them. She lined them up together.

Liz took a seat in a pew and Max sat beside her.

“It's peaceful in here,” she said. It was somber and quiet, more in keeping with her emotions. Tears started to roll down her cheeks.

Max took her hand in his. “I’m here, Liz.”

Liz curled against his chest and sobbed as Max held her.

***

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Re: Gold Diggers (Adult, AU, CC, Mature) Ch 60, 06/23 pg25

Postby Alien_Friend » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:52 pm

Awww :( so sad! It says a lot about who Grandma Claudia was and just how powerful her love is and how it raised Liz to have these loyal trust worthily people in her life to be there for her at this time.

I am glad Michael was able to be there for Maria. She's been so strong for everyone. I am glad she didn't turn his comfort away.

I love that Amy lady. She's a special bread.

Touching stuff.

Looking forward to more.
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Gold Diggers - Chapter 61

Postby nibbles2 » Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:39 am

Enjoy!



Gold Diggers – Sixty One

Isabel rubbed her temples, trying to ease the headache that was throbbing in her skull.

She had been asked not to take any medication for twenty-four hours before coming into the doctor’s office and it had been hell. She’d spent most of the previous day curled in a fetal position praying for time to speed up.

But it would be worth it, she told herself. Doctor Badawi would find a cure for her headaches and she’d never suffer that way again. It had been the only thing stopping her from reaching for the little pink pills that were her lifeline.

“Isabel, can you follow me please?” A nurse asked.

Isabel stood up slowly, careful not to jar her head and followed. She liked the offices here. All the floors were carpeted, the lights were low and soothing, there was no music playing, nothing to cause headaches. It gave her confidence that Doctor Badawi would take her seriously.

The nurse led her to a large corner office. It was floor to ceiling windows, but the harsh daylight was blocked by drapes and the room was lit by a scattering of lamps.

“Please take a seat,” Doctor Badawi said. “I am sorry that I had to cancel on you last week, but an aunt of mine died and I had to return home for the funeral.”

“It’s fine,” Isabel told him. “I’m just glad that you were able to fit me in on such short notice.”

He lifted the chart that the nurse had given him. “Tell me about your headaches, please,” he asked politely.

“It started when I was about eight or nine. I used to get really bad migraine headaches. They were so bad that I could barely function. One time I couldn’t even say my own name.”

“How did you treat them?”

“I took some sort of pill; I’m not sure what it was called. But really the only thing I could do was lie down in a dark room and try to sleep it off.”

“How long did you have the migraines for?”

“Usually a couple of hours.”

“And when did they stop? How old were you?”

“Um… twelve or thirteen.”

The doctor nodded and made a note. “Did you suffer from headaches after that?”

Isabel shook her head. “No, not really. Sometimes when I was stressed I got headaches, but they weren’t migraines.”

“Now, tell me about the headaches you’ve been getting recently.”

“They’re awful. I can’t function with them. I can’t do anything.”

“Do you experience the same sort of pain that you had when you were a child?”

“No, it’s different. It’s duller and they last a lot longer. It seems like I have one constant headache. It’s lasted for weeks. It doesn’t ever go away but the pills I’m taking help deaden it.”

Doctor Badawi put down the chart and nodded. “Yes, the pills. You say you don’t know what they are called. I find that strange. Is the name not on the container? Did your doctor not tell you what they were called when he prescribed them to you?”

Isabel bit her lip. “Uh, they weren’t exactly prescribed to me. I spoke to a couple of doctors but they would only give me Hepatrin. One of them told me that I was making them up and wouldn’t give me anything at all. So a … friend of mine gave me something one day and it worked. She was able to get the pills for me when I needed them.”

“I see,” the doctor said. “Tell me, what is your friend’s profession?”

Isabel looked away. “She’s an interior decorator.”

The doctor’s eyebrows shot up. “She is not a doctor?”

“No, but the pills really worked. They are the only thing that has helped me,” Isabel insisted. “Nothing else works.”

“Have you got any of them with you today?”

“Yes…” Isabel hesitated. She didn’t want to hand them all over in case he refused to give them back so she reached into her purse and emptied two into her hand and gave them to him to inspect.

The doctor put on a pair of glasses and turned on a lamp at his desk. He peered closely at them, turning them over and even licked them. “I am not familiar with these pills,” he said after a while. “I have never seen them before. I do not think that they are for headaches, at least not any that I am familiar with.”

“Maybe they’re not supposed to be headache pills,” Isabel said. “You know, sometimes you hear about how a pill that was supposed to fight a fungal infection on your toe also stops nosebleeds or something.”

The doctor frowned. “I have never heard of that pill.”

“No, it’s not real. It was just an example because I can’t think of any real ones off the top of my head,” Isabel explained. She was beginning to get a bad feeling about the doctor. She didn’t like the way he was looking at the pills.

At length, he pressed a button on his phone and summoned somebody to his office.

A young man appeared a minute later and Doctor Badawi instructed him to investigate the pills and find out what they were. Isabel was glad that she had only given him two and when he asked if she had any more on her, she lied and told him that was all she’d brought with her.

After questioning her more about her symptoms and her history, the doctor sent her with a nurse to begin testing.

The testing took several hours and by the time it was over, Isabel felt exhausted. She had answered so many questions, been poked and prodded. Her head felt like a pin cushion and when she saw herself in the washroom mirror, she was deathly pale.

Finally, she was brought back into Doctor Badawi’s office.

“How are you feeling?” he asked kindly.

“Like I need to lie down,” Isabel answered. She smiled at him. “So, can you help me?”

The doctor shuffled his papers and cleared his throat and Isabel’s heart sank. She knew it was going to be bad news.

“Isabel, we have carried out a number of tests today. We will need you to come back three more times over the next two months to measure some results. We have also looked into the pills you have been taking and we have identified them.

“The pills are used for treating psoriasis. As far as we can tell there are no active ingredients in them that would combat migraines or any other headaches.”

“But they help,” Isabel said, her voice rising with frustration and fear.

“Yes, I believe that they do help you, Isabel. However, it is not in the way that you think. I feel certain that your headaches are psychosomatic and the pills are little more than a placebo for you.”

Isabel’s mouth fell open. “So you think I’m making these headaches up?”

“No, no,” the doctor held up his hand to stem her angry rant. “I think that the pain you are experiencing is real and I feel tremendous sympathy for you in that respect. However, there is no underlying physical cause for them. I cannot treat them. I can refer you to some people who will be able to help, they are excellent therapists and counselors and –”

“No,” Isabel said furiously. “I have a condition and you have to help me. If it’s not real, then why do the pills work?”

“Because you believe they do,” he said calmly. “Perhaps because you want them to.”

“What does that mean?” Isabel demanded furiously.

“Let me ask you, Isabel, which came first - The pills or the headaches?”

Isabel stood up and furiously pushed a stack of files off the desk. “This is bullshit, I’m not going to stay here and listen to you. You’re nothing but a fucking fraud. You took my brother’s money and didn’t even try to help me. Did he tell you to say that to me? I’m going to sue you for fraud and medical malpractice. You’ll be hearing from my lawyers.”

She stormed out of the room and angrily stomped down the corridor. She stabbed the elevator call button repeatedly until it arrived on her floor.

Once inside, she leaned wearily against the mirrored wall and closed her eyes against the stabbing pain in her head. She blinked back tears of fury. How dare he say that to her. How fucking dare he!

Isabel reached into her bag and grabbed her pill bottle. She emptied three into her hand and swallowed them down in one gulp.

Immediately, she could feel the tendrils of pain receding.

What did that fucking fraud know anyway? The pills worked.

The pills were the only things that would help her.

***


Michael had assumed that Maria and Amy would be spending the day at Liz’s, so had expected to come home to an empty apartment. It had amazed him to find how much he disliked the idea. Not that long ago, he had enjoyed having the solitude. Now he thought it was empty and lonely when Maria and Maddie weren’t there.

But when he let himself in the door, he could hear a number of voices and when he entered the living room he found Maria, Amy, Liz and Alex were there. They all looked busy, either talking on the phone, working on a computer or leafing through pages.

Amy jumped up when she saw him and greeted him with a smile and a hug. “Michael, I’m so sorry about this, we’re after taking over your apartment.”

“It’s fine.”

Amy continued on as if he hadn’t spoken. “The phone company were working on Liz’s phone line today and we have a lot to do to organise the funeral so we decamped back here. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Michael was quick to assure her. “It’s fine. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”

Liz had finished up her phone call and joined them for the tail end of their conversation. “Thank you, Michael. I really appreciate this.”

“It’s no trouble, Liz,” he told her sincerely. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.”

Michael shifted uncomfortably. “If there’s anything you need… I, uh, I understand that things are difficult for you now, financially speaking, so if there’s anything I can do, just let me know.”

He cursed himself for how awkward he sounded. He was the CEO of a Fortune Five Hundred company for God’s sake. So why did he sound like a bumbling teenage boy asking a girl out on a date.

Liz bit her lip. Michael could tell that she was torn between accepting the money that she needed and not wanting to take money for him. Thankfully Amy stepped in before Liz could turn him down.

“That’s so kind of you, Michael,” Amy smiled. “I had no idea how expensive funerals could be. Bless Claudia, but I don’t think she did either. Just the cost of transporting her to Roswell alone is shocking.”

“I can help with that. You can use our company plane. You can all travel down in it.”

“That would be great, we wouldn’t have to drive for five hours,” Amy exclaimed.

“Actually, that would be great. Thank you, Michael,” Liz said. “I’ll pay you back.”

“That’s not necessary,” Michael said immediately.

“It is,” Liz insisted.

Michael sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “Fine. But there’s no rush.”

Amy clapped her hands, deciding the matter before Michael and Liz could continue. “That’s great. We’re almost done here, so why don’t you finish up, Liz, and I’ll get a start on dinner.”

Michael went upstairs to change his clothes and when he came back down, he found Alex and Amy were pulling on their jackets. “Are you leaving?”

“We have no tomatoes so I’m just running to the store to pick up some. Do you need anything?” Amy asked.

“I’m good, thanks.”

“I’m meeting a guy that I would like to hire for the center,” Alex said. “He’s going on vacation for three weeks next Monday so I want to talk to him before he goes.”

“It’s so wonderful that you’ve given Alex a new center,” Amy gushed. “You two are doing such an amazing thing.”

Michael blushed at the undeserved praise. “Thanks,” he mumbled.

“Bye girls,” Alex called over his shoulder as he left.

“Bye, Al,” Liz and Maria called.

Michael went to join them in the living room.

“I’m not leaving Maddie with some teenage girl she’s I’ve never met before,” Maria was saying.

Liz threw her hands up in a gesture of defeat. “Then I don’t know what to tell you, Maria. You’ve sort of run out of options… Unless you want to leave her with Mrs. Browne.”

Maria made a face of disgust and flopped down onto a couch. “No way am I leaving her with that old witch.”

“Why do you need to leave Maddie with somebody?” Michael asked. “Oksana will kill you if you ask somebody else to watch Maddie instead of her.”

“It's for when we're in Roswell. I need somebody to take care of Maddie while I’m helping Liz out and at the funeral,” Maria explained.

“She’s shot down all our suggestions,” Liz added.

“Yeah, I’m one of those mothers,” Maria sighed. “But, I’m not comfortable leaving her with somebody that I don’t know. She’s too young.”

“I can do it,” Michael offered.

Maria shook her head. “We’ll be in Roswell, Michael.”

Yeah, I’ll go with you. I can take care of Maddie while you’re busy,” Michael said. “Max said he’s going to Roswell on Friday after work, I can go with him.”

“Problem solved,” Liz said brightly.

“Great,” Maria snapped and stalked upstairs.

Michael sighed, once again he had managed to upset Maria and he had no clue how.

Liz excused herself and followed Maria up the stairs. Michael shook his head and went into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee.

“What’s up with you?” he heard a Liz ask.

He jumped and whirled around in surprise, wondering how she’d gotten into the kitchen when he’d just seen her go upstairs. His eyes landed on the baby monitor sitting on the counter top.

“Nothing,” came Maria’s voice.

“You were kind of mean to Michael,” Liz said.

Barely daring to breathe even though he knew they couldn’t hear him, Michael edged closer to the monitor.

“I thought it was really good of him to offer to come with us. And he’s going to fly us all to Roswell.”

“So, you’re on his side now? See, this is what he does.”

“I’m on your side, Maria. All I’m saying is that he was being really generous. And what is he doing?”

Maria sighed loudly before her voice moved away from the monitor. Michael had to adjust the volume button to hear her clearly.

“He buys people off. The guy’s a selfish jerk but he gets away with it because he throws money at people and they forget all about how big of a douche he is.”

“I don’t think he’s trying to buy you off, Maria. He looked really hurt when you blew him off.”

Maria mumbled something which Michael didn’t catch but he was pretty sure was an insult directed at him.

“I think he’s genuinely trying to do the right thing, Maria,” Liz said, her tone placating. “With Alex and the center. And with you. He knows what he did was wrong and he’s trying to make up for it. You told me that you were going to give him a chance, so why aren’t you?”

“I don’t trust him,” Maria said. “He’s a selfish, manipulative jerk and he doesn’t care who he hurts just to get his own way. Look what he did to Alex’s center.”

“I agree with you on that. He’s a jerk, but he’s trying to change. People can change. Look at Max. This morning you were singing his praises. You said you couldn’t believe how great he’d turned out to be. Why can’t it be the same with Michael?”

There was silence for a moment and Michael waited with bated breath.

“I don’t know. I just can’t bring myself to trust him, Liz. I can’t help but feel that he has some kind of ulterior motive.”

“What kind of ulterior motive could he have for marrying you and doing all this for you and Maddie?”

“You know his project? The one they knocked the center for? Do you know how much money his company have invested in that?” Maria asked, she was closer to the monitor again, and it sounded like she was pacing.

“A couple of million?” Liz guessed.

“Three hundred and thirty million,” Maria stated.

Liz whistled. “Wow.”

“Yeah. The State has invested millions in it as well. The slogan for that development is that they’re building a new community together. So how would it look if it got out that Michael had destroyed Alex’s center? It would be a PR disaster for the whole project. But if it turns out that Michael married Alex’s best friend and, oh look, he’s adopted a little orphan baby! Then everybody thinks he’s a great person again.”

Michael blew out a breath. He had never even considered that angle. Truth be told, he was hoping the millions they were investing, the housing projects and the thousand jobs they were creating would be more than enough to mitigate the bad stuff.

He knew Maria had a poor opinion of him, but it was even worse than he thought.

“Do you really believe that?” Liz asked. “You said he’s great with Maddie.”

“I don’t know,” Maria sighed. She had stopped pacing now. “Not really, I guess.”

Michael sighed with relief.

“So what’s really going on?”

“I’m afraid, Liz.”

“Afraid of what?”

“I’m afraid that I’m going to fall in love with him again.”

Michael inhaled sharply. He grabbed the monitor in his two hands, desperate to hear every word.

“It’s like he’s Jekyll and Hyde. One part of him is really wonderful; he’s a great father, he’s kind and generous, he’s sweet. And the other side is this guy who lies and manipulates and who’s ruthless and uncaring and a bully. I don’t know which one is the real Michael.

“The last time, I let my guard down and I fell so hard for him, Liz. You don’t know what it was like to wake up and discover that the person you’re in love with is somebody you hate. What he did to Alex goes against everything I stand for. I can’t trust him.

“But he’s so sweet with Maddie. He’s really generous to everybody. I keep seeing the guy that I fell in love with originally and I think I’m starting to feel that way again. So I push it down and I act mean so I won’t make that mistake again.”

“That’s understandable,” Liz admitted after a few moments of silence. “I’m sorry; I don’t mean to push you about it.”

“It’s not your fault,” Maria sighed.

There was another lapse of silence and then Maria’s voice again. “What do you think I should do, Liz? Do you think I should trust him?”

Michael leaned closer to hear Liz’s reply.

At that moment, Amy burst through the door carrying a heavy shopping bag. “I went to the store for tomatoes and ended up getting twenty other things, it’s always the way,” she said cheerfully.

Michael leaped a foot into the air and dropped the monitor. He grabbed it quickly and turned it off before Amy could figure out that he’d been listening to Maria and Liz’s conversation.

Amy chattered away as Michael tried to calm down. His heart was racing. Eventually he excused himself, telling Amy that he needed to make a phone call.

He fled to the safety of his office and slumped heavily into his desk chair. His heart was still beating wildly.

He couldn’t believe what he’d just learned. Maria had feelings for him, though she was fighting hard to suppress them.

That was the best news he’d ever heard.

He could show her that she could trust him. It would take time but he knew that he could slowly make her believe in him again. There was hope.

Michael smiled to himself.

He couldn’t believe that he still had a chance, despite everything. Right then he swore that he would be the man that Maria needed him to be. He wouldn’t give her any reason not to trust him. He would be the person she wanted to fall in love with it.

He was still sitting there, smiling to himself when there was a knock on the door, jolting him from his thoughts.

“Come in,” he called.

Maria entered hesitantly, carrying Maddie. “Hi.”

“Hey,” he smiled. He took Maddie into his arms and grinned at her. “Hello there.”

“Max and Liz will be using the spare room, so you’ll have to take the couch. In Roswell.”

Michael smiled. “No problem.”

“It's small and not very comfortable,” Maria continued.

“That's fine,” Michael said as pleasantly as possible.

“OK. Then, great. Thanks, it would be great to have you there,” Maria admitted grudgingly.

“Great, I’ll be there.”

“Great,” Maria said again. She rolled her eyes and laughed. “I’m going to help Mom with dinner.”

“Great,” Michael said and smiled at her.

Maria gave him a strange look and left.

Michael couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled out of his throat. He kissed Maddie’s forehead. “Wanna know a secret?” he whispered to her. “Your Mommy likes me!”

***

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nibbles2
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Gold Diggers - Chapter 62

Postby nibbles2 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:23 pm

mary mary Who is Isabelle? Lol. Isabel will get help soon.

begonia9508 Thanks for reading.

Natalie36 Thanks. She really does.

Earth2Mama Lol, yes, Michael is a-wooing.

FSU/MSW-94 Two woos. Yes, he's totally able to change his ways. I think he's already started.

zaneri1 Strange to wish for somebody to hit rock bottom. But yes, I agree. It's the only way that Isabel will accept that she has a problem.

Alien_Friend Unfortunately, it's not that simple for Isabel. It's a complex problem which is why it's so hard for her to walk away from it.

keepsmiling7 Yeah, I’ve suffered from headaches all my life and I had migraine when I was younger, so I know what Isabel is going through. Fortunately I never developed the addiction to pills to go along with it. But I do know that when I’m in the grip of a really bad headache I would do anything to get rid of it.

xilaj Thank you. Isabel won't be a client of Alex, because spoiler alert, they're going to end up together and that would be ew. But, Alex will play an important role in her road to recovery.

sarammlover Thank you.

This part is entirely meh, but I've got nothing better so I'm afraid it'll have to do. Sorry.

Gold Diggers – Sixty Two

Michael opened his apartment door and let himself and Max inside. They stopped and stared in amazement at the mound of luggage waiting in the lobby.

Maria came down the stairs and added another bag to the pile. “Hi guys.”

“Hey. Are you guys moving to Roswell?” Michael asked.

Maria laughed. “No. These three bags here belong to Liz, me and Mom. The rest of it is Maddie's.”

“How can one small person possibly need all that stuff?” Max asked with a shake of his head. He could count four separate bags for Maddie alone. He placed his own small bag along side the others.

“Well, when that person poops and spits up milk at the rate Maddie does, they need it,” Maria sighed. Michael nodded in understanding. “What I'd like to know is how people without access to their own private planes manage it, because I literally can't pack less for her.”

Max laughed. He glanced towards the living room where he could see Liz sitting on the couch staring into space and it sobered him up. “How's Liz doing?”

“She's doing OK, as well as can be expected.” Maria sighed again. “Did she sleep last night? She says she did but she doesn't look like it.”

“She tossed and turned a lot, but I think she got a couple of hours.” Max said. He patted Maria's shoulder and went to join Liz.

Liz gave him a small smile as he sat down beside her and kissed her cheek.

“Hi, Beautiful. How are you?”

“I'm really dreading this.”

Max took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “I know. Can I do anything for you?”

Liz shook her head. “Just this.”

“I can do that,” Max said. He pulled her against his body and wrapped his arms around her.

“How come you're here so early? I thought we weren't going for another few hours,” Liz asked after they'd been sitting in silence for a while.

“Michael and I are meeting Isabel to pick out gifts for mother's day,” Max said.

“Oh shit,” Maria gasped. She had just walked into the living room and heard Max's statement. “That's this Sunday. I'd totally forgotten. Crap. I have nothing for Mom. And I wanted to get something for Diane and Mom from Maddie too.”

“They should really advertise it more so people don't forget,” Max joked dryly.

“In my defense, I'm operating on about four hours sleep a night for the past three weeks,” Maria protested.

“Come with us,” Max suggested. “We're going to Barney's on Rodeo.”

It wasn't a place that Maria had ever shopped before as she always found it far too expensive but she knew they were in a hurry and thanks to Michael she had money. “OK, thanks. I'll just tell Mom I'm going. out”

“Do you want to come?” Max asked Liz.

She shook her head. “Nah, I don't have the energy for shopping now. I'll stay here here.”

Max didn't like the idea of leaving her on her own.

“Amy is here and Alex is on his way over,” Liz said, guessing his thoughts. “I'll be fine on my own for a couple of hours. Go.”

“OK.”

They sat in silence until the doorbell rang and Max got up to answer it when there was no sign of either Michael or Maria.

Isabel was slouched against the wall outside Michael's door. She looked terrible. Her hair was limp and greasy, and pulled into a messy ponytail, her face was make-up free and pale. She was wearing dark sunglasses and sweats. Max had never seen Isabel wear sweats in public before. “Uh, are you OK?”

“I'm fine,” she snapped. “Can we get going?”

“Michael and Maria aren't ready yet, come in.”

“I'm not allowed inside the inner sanctum in case I infect precious Maddie with my druggie ways,” Isabel said snidely.

“You can come in and wait. Maddie's sleeping upstairs. Come on, you can meet Liz,” Max cajoled.

“Pass.”

“Fine. We'll be out in a minute,” Max said and shut the door. He just wasn't in the mood to be dealing with Isabel's attitude today.

Michael came down the stairs and dropped his bag onto the luggage pile. “Who was that?”

“Isabel. She's been at the bitch pills again.”

“Great.” Michael rolled his eyes. “Maria, we need to get going now if we want to be back in time to catch the plane.”

“Coming,” Maria called.

Max went back into the living room. “We're going now, do you need anything?” he asked Liz.

“No thanks, I'm fine,” Liz said. She was lying down on the couch now. “I think I might get some sleep.”

“OK.” Max covered her with a throw and moved her glass of water from the coffee table to the end table where she'd be able to reach it without having to stretch. He kissed her forehead. “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Liz said sleepily.

“Bye, sweetie,” Maria said quietly from behind Max.

Max jumped a little, unaware that she'd been there. “Ready?” he asked.

Maria nodded and followed him out.

Isabel barely greeted them when they joined her and said nothing until they were in the Limo. “How come you two aren't at work today?”

“We're going to Roswell for Liz's grandmother's funeral,” Max explained. “Out plane leaves at noon.”

“Wait, you're both going?” Isabel asked angrily. “What about me?”

“What do you mean?” Michael asked.

“You're just going to leave me here alone? Didn't it dawn on you that I might need you this weekend? I'm not well, remember?”

“You said everything went fine at the doctors,” Michael told her.

“I'm still getting my headaches. He hasn't cured me,” Isabel spat.

“I'm sorry, Isabel, but we're both going,” Max said. “Liz and Maria need us. We'll be back on Sunday. If you need somebody, why don't you just go home?”

Isabel made a sound of disgust and put her glasses back on. They couldn't see, but they could all feel her glaring at them.

Max was thankful when the car pulled up in front of the store and they were released from the tense atmosphere.

“Do you know what you're getting your mom?” Maria asked.

“We always get her a bottle of her favorite perfume,” Michael said.“Chanel Number Five, it's the only one she wears. And I was thinking, we could get her a watch. Hers broke in the crash and she hasn't replaced it yet. And she kind of hinted that's what she wants.”

“Good idea,” Max said. “I haven't been able to think of anything. What do you think, Iz?”

Isabel grunted. Whether it was in approval or not, Max didn't really know, or care.

“We still need to think of a third gift,” Michael said. “We always get her three things,” he explained to Maria. “Any suggestions?”

Maria shook her head. “No, sorry. Your mom seems to have everything already.”

Max sighed. “Yeah, it's always so hard to pick something for her. Usually Isabel has a great idea.”

The three of them turned to Isabel who was rolling her eyes and shifting about impatiently. “Can we get this over with?” She snapped.

“I'm going to go look for something for my Mom, I'll come find you when I'm finished,” Maria said. She shot a glare in Isabel's direction and walked off.

“Perfume first” Michael suggested.

He and Max led the way to the perfume hall, with Isabel trailing behind them. She gagged when the smell of all the perfumes hit her.

“It reeks in here” she complained.

Max closed his eyes and prayed for strength.

“Ugh, I can't stay here,” Isabel said loudly. “The stench is making me nauseous.”

“Isabel,” Michael hissed, when a couple of counter assistants shot her a dirty look.

“Smells can trigger migraines, you know,” Isabel told them. “Not that you two care.”

She turned and stormed out.

“I thought everything went well at the doctors,” Max said. “Why is she like that?”

Michael shrugged. “I don't know. Maybe it's because she's experiencing withdrawals from those pills. She's stopped taking them now.”

“Ah. How long do you think that will last?”

“Hopefully not long. She's been taking less of them since she handed them over to us, so maybe it won't be too bad.”

Max hoped not, he was fast losing patience with her. They picked up the bottle of perfume and Max had it gift-wrapped while Michael paid and then they went to find Isabel.

She was sitting on a courtesy chair, her arms folded and her eyes hidden by her sun glasses.

“How about we walk around and see if we can find something for the third gift before we get the watch?” Max suggested.

Michael nodded, Isabel grunted.

They scoured three different floors looking for ideas. Max and Michael made numerous suggestions which Isabel dismissed as lame but encouraged them to get so they could 'get the fuck out of here'.

By the time they got to the fourth floor, Isabel was whining about a headache and dragging along behind them. Max and Michael ignored her bad attitude as best they could, the worse she behaved the more polite and cheerful they were.

“How about a scarf?” Michael asked, looking at a display of silk scarves. “Mom likes scarves.”

“That's why she already has a million of them,” Max said.

Michael sighed and threw his hands up. “Why do we always leave this to the last minute?”

Max grinned and turned around to survey the floor. “Oh, I know. Let's get her a blanket.”

“What?” Michael asked, looking dubious about the suggestion.

“Whenever I go see her in the hospital, she always has a wool blanket over her legs. I think she likes to keep them covered so people won't stare at them. Once she's out and she's using a wheelchair, she might like a blanket.”

Michael nodded. “Yeah, great idea. Iz, what do you think?”

Isabel made an unimpressed sound.

That's three yeses,” Michael declared, knowing well that Isabel hadn't liked the idea.

They spent another fifteen minutes trying to pick out the right one. Isabel just sat in a chair and offered no help whatsoever.

“Let's just do eenie meenie,” Max said once they'd narrowed the choice down to two.

“OK,” Michael agreed. He looked up and spotted Maria passing by and called her over. She was empty handed. “No luck?”

“No, I'm finished. They're going to carry it out to the car for me when I'm leaving,” Maria said. “You really do get a better class of service when your last name is Evans. Ooh, nice.” she stroked the blanket Max was holding. “Wow, that is so soft.”

“We're going to get one of these for Mom,” Michael explained.

“Good idea,” Maria said. “She'll get a lot of use out of it.”

The two guys felt relieved that she thought it was a good idea.

“Which one?” Max asked.

Maria stroked the two blankets and opted for the lilac one Max was holding. Michael went to pay for it.

“So are you finished?” Maria asked.

Max shook his head. “We still have to get the watch.” He checked the time and frowned. “We need to hurry up.”

Michael came back and they made their way downstairs to the jewelery department, once again Isabel dragged along behind them like a sulky teenager.

As Maria looked over the display of watches, Max nudged Michael. “Hey, did you get anything for Maria for mother's day?”

Michael's eyes widened in alarm. “Oh shit, no. It never even dawned on me. Fuck.”

“What's wrong?” Isabel asked, finally joining them.

“Nothing,” Michael said. “Can you pick out a watch?”

Isabel stabbed her finger at the first display of watches she saw. “That one.”

Max clenched his jaw, wanting nothing more than to hit her. The sales assistant behind the counter pulled out the tray so they could look at them. Even though Isabel had barely glanced at them when she picked them out, they were very pretty watches so Max couldn't say anything to her about it.

“Which one?” he asked, but when he turned around, Isabel had already slouched off. He exchanged annoyed looks with Michael.

“Maria,” Michael called.

“Can you pick?” Max asked when she walked over to them.

“Um... they're very nice but they're silver and your mom wears gold.”

“Oh?” Max didn't really understand the significance.

“I think she'd prefer a gold watch,” Maria elaborated. “I saw a really nice one over here.”

She led them to the display case she'd been standing beside and asked to see a small delicate watch. “I think this is more her style.”

The two guys eagerly agreed, neither really having much of a clue and just happy to have somebody make the decision for them.

“We'll take it,” Michael said.

“That's thirteen hundred dollars,” the sales lady told him.

Maria clutched Michael's arm, her eyes wide in mortification. “I'm sorry,” she whispered when the lady was out of hearing range. “I had no idea it was that expensive. I can tell her I've changed my mind and pick another one.”

“It's fine,” Michael assured her.

Maria looked uncertain but Michael handed over his credit card without hesitation.

As they waited for the transaction to go through and for the gift to be wrapped, Max noticed that Michael was subtly trying to get his attention. Michael motioned towards Maria and then jerked his head away.

Max shook his head, letting Michael know that he didn't know what he wanted.

Michael jerked his head towards a poster reminding customer's about mother's day, then he motioned to Maria again and then jerked his head away.

“Oh,” Max mouthed silently. He cast around looking for a distraction and spotted a sign for the stationary department. “Uh, I'm going to go pick out a card.”

“I'll go too,” Maria decided, saving Max from having to ask for her help to pick out a card.

Max dawdled over the selection of a card to give Michael as much time as he needed to pick out something for Maria. As he moved amongst the racks of cards, he spotted some very cute teddy bears and picked one out. It had a patchwork heart stitched onto it's chest which he particularly liked.

“What do you think?” he asked Maria.

“That's adorable,” Maria cooed. “For your mom?”

“No, Liz actually.”

“Oh,” Maria pursed her lips.

“You don't think she'll like it?” Max asked worriedly.

“No, of course she will. She'll like anything you give her.” Maria assured him. “It's just that she's not really a teddy bear kind of person.”

Max's shoulders slumped. “Oh... Have you any ideas for something that I can get that will cheer her up.”

“Max, there's nothing you can buy that will cheer her up. She doesn't need cheering up. She's grieving right now and she just needs time, and lots of love and support. Keep doing what you've been doing.”

“I hate seeing her like this.”

“Me too,” Maria agreed. “But, Max, we can't make this go away for her. What we can do is be there for her and let her know that she's not alone. I think you're doing great so far.”

“Really?”

Maria nodded.

Max cocked his head to the side. “I didn't think you liked me.”

“I didn't,” Maria admitted. “I thought that you were the guy the tabloids said you were. But, it turns out that you're actually a pretty great guy. I'm happy that you're Liz's boyfriend. And Maddie's uncle.”

Max smiled. “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” He made to put the bear down, but Maria stopped him.

“Actually, maybe you should get it. She'll love the bear, because it will remind her of you, and of how sweet and supportive you've been to her through all this.”

“Thanks.” Max shifted uncomfortably. He wasn't used to praise like that and didn't really know how to take it. “I want to be a good boyfriend to her, but this is pretty new to me. So, if there's anything that you think I should be doing and I'm not, or if I'm doing something wrong, let me know. I want to be the best boyfriend Liz could have.”

“Don't worry, Max, I will,” Maria promised.

Max laughed and shifted awkwardly. He was glad when Michael walked up to them and ended the conversation. He handed Michael the card he'd picked out. “Here you go.”

Michael took it without question and Max grabbed it back. “I was joking, I'll pay for the card.”

“OK.” Michael wasn't even paying attention to Max. He was looking at Maria. “Can I have a word with you, over there,” he jerked his thumb in the direction of the jewelery department.

“Sure.”

Max took the cards she had picked out from her hand. “I'll get these for you.”

Maria followed Michael back to the jewelry section. “Is there a problem with the watch?”

“No.” Michael leaned close and spoke in a low voice. “I was thinking, we should get wedding rings.”

“Oh.”

“You know, for appearances sake at least. We should have them if we have to go to court again or need to get our picture taken.”

“Right,” Maria nodded, suddenly feeling nervous.

Michael indicated to a lady behind one of the counters who lifted out a tray of wedding bands.

“Do you prefer gold, white gold or platinum?” She asked.

Maria looked to Michael he just gestured for her to answer. “Gold, I guess. That's traditional, right.”

“I don't mind.”

“Gold,” Maria decided. She hoped it was the cheaper option because she felt bad after picking out the incredibly expensive watch.

Their fingers were measured and they were fitted for rings, and even though Maria chose a simple and plain band for herself, she was stunned when the price was mentioned to Michael, who didn't even blink.

“This has been an expensive day for you,” she whispered to him.

“I guess,” He said with an unperturbed shrug. “I'll just wear mine,” he said to the lady who was boxing the rings.

She handed him his ring and Maria watched him slide it onto his finger. Then she realized that the sales lady was holding hers out as well. She thought it would look weird if she didn't put it on too, so Maria took the ring and slid it onto her own finger. She flexed her fingers a couple of times to get used to it.

“Thank you,” she said to the lady.

“I should have gotten you an engagement ring,” Michael said.

Maria shook her head. “I don't want one. We were never engaged.”

“Right,” Michael said, his emotions hard to read.

They found Max and Isabel who were waiting for them. Isabel was glowering and Max was carrying two teddy bears.

“I got one for Maddie,” he told Maria.

“Aw, that's so sweet. Thank you.”

“Our car is outside, we should go. We're going to be cutting it tight for the plane.”

“I'll call Mom and tell her to be ready to go,” Maria offered.

“I'm just going to get a cab. I wouldn’t want to get in the way,” Isabel sneered. “Have fun on your weekend.”

“We're going to a funeral,” Michael reminded her pointedly, his annoyance clear.

“Whatever. I'm sure I'll be fine on my own.” Isabel's voice dripped with disdain.

Max bit down on his impatience. “Isabel, we'll be back on Sunday. We'll all meet up to go see Mom and we can do something together after that if you want.”

“Whatever,” Isabel said and stomped off.

“Ugh,” Max threw his head back. “I just can't deal with her today. Let's go.”

***

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Gold Diggers - Conclusion

Postby nibbles2 » Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:16 pm

I really hate to do this, but I’ve decided not to continue with Gold Diggers. Although I promised that I would complete this fic no matter what, a number of circumstances have changed and for many reasons, I won't be writing any more. I would have loved to have got the fecker finished, but it's just not possible. I’m sorry that I might have let some people down and I genuinely do feel bad that I didn't get to finish it, especially as it's been part of my life for seven damn years now. I’ve written up a synopsis of how it would have ended which is posted here as well.

One of the reasons I won't be completing Gold Diggers is because I have left the Roswell Fandom. There was a time when I thought that wouldn't be possible, I guess after seven years as a member of Roswell Fanatics, it's just time to move on. I love RF, it's such a fantastic community, filled with amazingly talented writers and wonderfully supportive readers. The mods and admins do such a good job with the board and I can easily say it's one of the best run and best organised fanfic sites on the web, so from the bottom of my heart, Thank You to all the wonderful people I’ve met on RF over the years. Most especially to everybody who has ever read and left feedback for any of my fics, because the fact that people liked them means so much to me. And a huge, special thank you to everybody who has betaed a fic for me, or made a banner or contributed in any way, I truly appreciate all the time and effort that people have voluntarily given up to help me out.

There are still some fics that I’m keeping an eye on and hope to one day see finished (they won't be, but I am eternally optimistic) so I’ll still be around from time to time.

Love you All.

Míle Buíochas .

Gold Diggers – How it would have ended.

(the really infuriating thing is that I actually had more chapters written and ready to go but I’ve lost the memory stick they were on and I changed computers recently so I have no back up. Grr.)

Where we stopped: Grandma Claudia had died. Liz was getting ready to fly to Roswell for the funeral, with Maria, Alex, Max, Amy and Maddie along for support. Michael was coming too to help with Maddie so that Maria would be free to help Liz. On the morning before they left, Max and Michael had gone shopping with Isabel who was copping a major attitude because she was suffering withdrawal symptoms from the pills she was addicted to. What she didn't know was that the pills she was taking, weren't even the pills she was addicted to because Carla had given her fake pills before she left town.

Next:

Liz, Max, Alex, Maria, Michael, Maddie and Amy arrived back in Roswell along with Claudia's body. Max and Alex accompanied Liz to the funeral home where Liz said a private goodbye to her grandmother. That evening, they held the viewing which was attended by hundreds of wellwishers and mourners. Michael stayed at the Deluca's to babysit Maddie.

The next day, Claudia was buried in a large and eccentric service that reflected her personality. Afterwards, they had a reception at a local hotel for everybody who attended. During the reception, Michael showed up with Maddie because Maria wanted her relatives and friends to meet Maddie. After a while, when Maddie got hungry, Michael took her to another room to feed her. As Liz was busy talking to people, Max joined Michael.

Max asked Michael to loan him some more money to help Liz pay for the funeral so she wouldn't have to go back to working in the club. Michael revealed he had already paid for the funeral. He then told Max that he didn't have to pay back the money he had borrowed to pay off Carla. Max was shocked to hear that Michael knew that he had paid Carla money.

Michael then admitted that he had known Carla was blackmailing Max all along, and why. He explained that initially he had been hurt and angry that Max had slept with Carla and had been waiting to get revenge on Max but that lately, since Maria and Maddie had come into his life he had started to see things from a different point of view and no longer felt the need for revenge. He was over his anger and hurt and didn't care anymore. He just wanted to put the past behind him and move on. Max apologised profusely and revealed that he had just slept with Carla on one occasion, when he'd been drunk and that he was deeply sorry and ashamed. Michael was surprised to learn it had just been one occasion as he had been sure that it had been an affair that had lasted months. The news that it was just one night made him feel glad that he hadn't followed through with his plans to destroy Max, but also made him feel horrible that he hadn't talked to Max sooner and spent so long holding a grudge that almost ruined their relationship for good. The two brothers hugged and promised to always talk about their issues in the future. Michael also decided that he needed to go to therapy to deal with issues stemming from his troubled childhood.

That night Michael and Maria went out to dinner to give Liz and Max some alone time. Maria was beginning to see Michael in a new light and when he told her what had happened with Max and his decision to go to therapy, they became closer and she finally dropped her grudge, though she told him she wanted to be just friends. Michael agreed to be friends, though he promised himself that he would do everything he could to make Maria fall in love with him.

The next day was mother's day. Michael gave Maria a diamond 'M' pendant from Maddie as a gift. Later that morning Max and Michael flew back to LA. They were supposed to be meeting Isabel at the hospital to give their mother her gifts, but Isabel was a no-show. After she failed to answer numerous phone calls, they guys went around to her apartment. They managed to gain entry and found Isabel passed out on the floor of her bathroom surrounded by her own vomit. Max was able to perform CPR on her, as he had picked it up from reading posters and information booklets at the nursing home. They rushed Isabel to hospital where she remained unconscious.

Later that evening, Liz, Maria, Alex and Maddie showed up at the hospital to support Max and Michael. Alex offered to sit with Isabel so Max, Michael and Maria could take Maddie to visit a distraught Diane. Liz left the hospital to get food for the guys and because she was having a hard time being there so soon after her grandmother had died. While Alex was sitting with Isabel, she woke up. He told her where she was and told her that she had a problem and needed help. Alex’s painfully true words were finally enough to get through to Isabel and she admitted that she had a problem and asked him to find her a place to go for rehab. When Max, Michael, Maria and Liz returned, Isabel admitted to being an addict and told her brothers she was ready to go to rehab. (Also, this was chapter 70 something and it was the first time in the fic that I had all six characters in the same room.)


After that, the fic jumped forward three months.

Three months later:
Next time we see the gang, Max has brought Liz home to meet his parents for the first time. Michael, Maria and Maddie are also there. Liz is so nervous about meeting Max's parents because she is still working as a stripper, although Michael had offered to lend her the money she needed, Liz was unwilling to get into debt again and was determined to make her own way. Liz showed up for dinner in a dress that an Amish grandmother would wear.

Dinner was a success, Max's parents loved Liz, naturally. Afterwards, Diane asked Liz to wheel her to her room. Liz immediately thought that Diane was going to warn her off, but to her astonishment, Diane produced an old playboy-like magazine and revealed that she was the naked centre-fold. She told Liz that she had come to LA hoping to make it as an actress and a model but when it didn't work out and things got tough, she'd ended up doing some nude modelling to make ends meet. Shortly afterwards she'd gotten a job at the Evans Ltd and met Philip. He knew about her modelling, and had even bought the rights to that picture so they'd never be used again. Diane told Liz that she didn't care what Liz did professionally and that it didn't matter if she worked as a stripper for the rest of her life, she could see that Liz was a good person and she was thankful for everything that Liz had done to help put Max back on the straight and narrow. (This was one of my favourite scenes ever because there was a whole page devoted to Liz's shock at how unkempt Diane's bush was in the picture.)

While Diane was having her heart to heart with Liz, Max was talking to his father. He was nearly finished with the training course in Evans Ltd and Philip wanted to know what Max wanted to do next. Max admitted that what he really wanted to do was to go back to college and study applied social care but if his father wanted to him to work for him, he would. Philip told Max that he only ever wanted Max to do something and would support him no matter what. He was tremendously proud of how Max had turned his life around and was reinstating his allowance. To show Max how proud he was, and how much they believed in him, Michael and Philip offered Max a place on the board of their charity foundation, as they said his insight would be a huge benefit to the board. It was a huge honour to be asked and Max was humbled and thrilled to accept.

That night Max told Liz the good news. He asked her to let him help her out financially so that she could finish working at the club and go back to college to get her doctorate. At first Liz was reluctant to accept his money, but Max told her that he was going to marry her someday and that they were building a life together so what was his was hers. He wanted her to be able to live her dreams. So Liz accepted Max's help and was finally able to quit her job at The Dangerzone.

The same day, Isabel learned that she was going to be released from rehab and could go home.

While all that was going on, Alex was almost ready to open his new centre. He had started dating Cate, the women who worked for Michael and everything was falling into place for him.

A week later, Isabel came home for the first time in three months. She received a warm welcome from her parents and her brothers, and a lukewarm welcome from Maria who was still uncertain about Isabel. Isabel apologized to Maria for her behaviour and promised to be a better aunt to Maddie in the future.

Later, over dinner, Diane and Maria got talking about a wedding that Maria was attending with Michael. It was a big society wedding, the daughter of an important client and Maria would need a designer dress for the occasion. Maria hadn't a clue where to start looking for that kind of a dress, and Diane manipulated her into asking Isabel for help, in the hope that Maria (and Liz) would be able to work their magic over Isabel as they had with Max and Michael.

So Isabel went shopping with Maria and Liz (who Maria dragged along) and the three girls formed a tentative friendship.

As part of her therapy, Isabel started doing volunteer work with the foundation and part of that brought her into contact with Alex and the centre. She helped him out with paperwork and thanked him for his help in pushing her in the right direction. She promised to always be an ally to Alex and the centre with the foundation.

Maria and Michael attended the wedding together. Despite Maria saying she wanted to be just friends, she was starting to fall for Michael again. Over the past three months he had proven to have changed his ways and was an excellent father and husband and they had developed a deep friendship. In the romantic setting of the wedding, and because Michael looks way hot in a suit, the last of Maria's resolve melted so when Michael kissed her on the dance-floor, she let him.

Back in their apartment, things were heating up between the two and Maria's designer dress was on Micheal’s bedroom floor when they were interrupted by a phone call. Michael turned off his cell, but when his land-line rang, he knew something was wrong and answered it. It was Tess. She told him that Kyle had been called into work and it had something to do with Maddie's mother.

Michael told Maria it was a work emergency and that he had to leave. He went to the station where he met Jesse and Christine. They discovered that earlier that day, there had been a raid on a couple of drug dens belonging to a particularly vicious drug lord. One of the women who worked for him had immediately started talking and among the many, many things she revealed, was the news that he'd killed a number of people. One of them was a young girl who was working for him at the time, nobody had known she was pregnant until she went into labour and gave birth to a baby in one of the dens. Because the girl wouldn't stop screaming, the drug lord had shot her and ordered his boys to dispose of the body and the baby. The woman in question had managed to convince them to leave the baby. The next morning, a regular client of theirs had shown up to collect her daily meth. They knew she worked at a hospital because she always wore a uniform and an ID badge. They asked her to take the baby to the hospital. Jesse and Christine began to check out all the details they had learned while the police began looking for the body of Maddie's mother.

Michael went home to Maria and Maddie. At first he considered putting them on a plane to Belize of somewhere but instead he told Maria what he had learned. She kissed him then, and told him that they would get through it together.

After an anxious few days, Christine was able to identify who Maddie's mother was. She was a young runaway named Claire who had been in and out of foster homes her whole life. Her mother was a drug addict and was currently in prison for murdering her pimp. There was no other family to claim Maddie so Michael and Maria was able to apply to formally adopt Maddie. The police recovered Claire's body and Michael paid for her to have a proper funeral to that Maddie would have somewhere to visit when she started wondering about her birth mother.

Alex’s centre is officially opened with all the gang present.

A Year Later:
Michael and Maria are getting married, in a big ceremony on the grounds of his parents house. Maddie's adoption is official. Max and Liz are living together and studying hard at their respective courses. Alex is still dating Cate, and he and Isabel are close friends. Isabel has remained clean and is doing well. After the happy couple leave for their honeymoon, Max proposes to Liz and she happily accepts but tells him she wants to wait until they have graduated before they marry.

Three years later:
Liz is now Dr. Parker and Max had graduated with a degree and is about to start work in a community home. They are getting married within a week. Maria has given birth to a baby girl, named Maisie. Alex is no longer dating Cate. He has developed feelings for Isabel but hasn't acted on them yet, despite everybody telling him that Isabel feels the same way.

Two nights before the wedding, Michael and Alex take Max out for a drink. They end up at The Dangerzone. To Max's dismay, Michael buys Max a private session in a booth. Despite his protests, Max ends up in the booth but he's delighted to discover Liz is there waiting for him. She dances for him one last time and after she reveals that they cameras are off, they christen the booth. Two days later, they marry in a simple ceremony. At the party afterwards, Alex finally makes his move and asks Isabel out. She happily agrees and they seal it with a kiss.

Two years later:
It's time for Alex and Isabel to marry. Maria and Michael have added a son, Michael, to their family and Max and Liz agree to stop taking birth control and see what happens.
Edited because I forgot to add, a long time ago Maria and Liz had decided that when Alex married, they would be his best men so when Isabel asked them to be her bridesmaids they had to decline. So Isabel asked Max and Michael to be her bridesmen and they did.

And therein ends the tale. They all live happily ever after. The end.

(Oh yeah, at some stage it would be revealed that Carla had killed herself. And there was a matter with the journalist that was hell-bent on ruining Max that I hadn't quite figured out how to resolve but it would have involved Michael spending more money probably.)

I think that's everything covered. If you've any questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them. I know it's not the ideal conclusion to a fic that some of you have been following from the very beginning but I hope it does tie up all the loose ends and gives some sense of closure.
Last edited by nibbles2 on Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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