Michael was still sleeping when she grabbed her robe and got out of the bed and tying it up as she went into the bathroom and then out into the kitchen to grab something for breakfast before she finished getting ready for her drive to the university. Pouring some coffee, her brain clearing after the cram session for her mid-term she had done after she finished her shift, and then spent time with her boyfriend.
As her eyes cleared, she viewed the couch and saw that it was empty, and alarm filled her as she expected to see her best friend passed out after one of her sessions at the bar, which she was most nights. She knew Jeff and Nancy had given up and told Liz not to come home if she laid one on, and so most nights lately Liz had been an unofficial roommate. A roommate who usually was passed out on couch and who then went straight to the bar when it opened.
"Michael," Maria yelled.
"What!" Michael asked as he staggered out of the bedroom as he had his own shift to get ready for while Maria commuted to school on this day.
"Where is Liz?" Maria asked frantically.
"Who knows," Michael asked as he was little fed up with his friend. He knew why Maria worried about Liz. They all were worried about Liz and the downhill spiral that Liz had been under since she came home from Vermont having lost Max.
The gang knew the true story about Max's demise. How he died in Roswell after some mad men forced him to help bring back the glory health of Clayton Wheeler and his wife Maris had engineered some serious criminal activity to get Max to help, and it led this death or, so they thought as he helped save Jim Valenti. Wheeler woke up in best health of his life, but with Max memories.
Max forced himself to take over but not before the wife Maris tried to get her now younger husband to kill Liz. Max fought to break through and tried to save the day, and he did by sacrificing his attempt at a new life by saving Liz from dying. She tried to be Juliet and will her Romeo back to life, and it hadn't worked, and the spiral began even before she got the final word on whether he would live. When he at first was believed to be dead, the first time, Liz went hardcore bad girl and started drinking and had nights of immoral behavior or enough in the constraint of a girls boarding school would allow to the point that it unnerved Maria and then of course when she lost Max again after so briefly getting him back when he sacrificed his life to save hers.
She went down the rabbit hole, and never came back to them.
"Maybe she's in a jail cell drying out?" Michael asked only partially hoping he was wrong because he knew that is what Liz was destined for if she wasn’t careful.
"Michael, really?" Maria glared.
"Seriously Maria, she needs help. And until she does get that help, we aren't helping by enabling her."
"I agree that she needs help, but her parents have lost faith in her and she's lost Max Michael, and that is a big loss, so I am not about to abandon her. She wouldn't if it was me who was reeling through losing you."
"I know," Michael said because it was the truth and he knew it. As much as he was gruff about life and love but heck, he knew he would be goner if he lost Maria and knew if there was vice versa then were no saving Max if he lost Liz to death.
"If I lost you to forever, and you couldn't come back well, I don't know if I wouldn't be the same as Liz. This isn't the Liz we all knew, but she also would have been dead twice over if not for Max's heroics and that eats at her. She feels that it's unfair that we had to lose Max, and yet she lives to feel the pain that cuts deep over losing him."
"I know," Michael said quietly as he went to the phone and handed it to his girlfriend. "Call Jim, and see if he knows anything?"
"Thank you," Maria smiled as she did a quick kiss on Michael's lips and grabbed the phone and started dial the Sheriff's department because she knew what a blowout of a fight her friend had had had at home, so Liz wouldn't be have gone home so she had to look elsewhere. "Can I speak to...um, Deputy Valenti" Maria asked as she was aware that Jim wasn't yet Sheriff. "I will wait, thank you."
Michael didn't want to hear the same old story, so he went into his bedroom to get ready for work.
"Hi Jim, do you know where Liz is? She didn't come here last night to sleep," Maria asked.
"Yes, I am aware that she could have had a sober night and gone somewhere else but there was something about how I saw her the other night, and it was Max's birthday yesterday which makes her actions more dangerous and any option of a night of sobriety not in the realm of possibility so I have this feeling she was headed to the bar last night. So, was she picked up? Is she there with you, sleeping it off?... No… well, that's a relief." she sighed she was told they hadn't arrested Liz for intoxication. "Can you please check into it for me. I need to get ready and head to school. Phone me if I have to do something about it."
Maria hung up and went to get dressed as she could only sigh as she looked at the calendar hanging up while she was talking to Jim and saw that yesterday had been Max's birthday and therefore, she knew her friend would have gone looking for trouble, and likely found it.
While at the same time Liz was passed out in a motel room across town, as the sexy bartender who called himself 'Rob Roy' woke up and found his partner sound asleep, as he shook his head and got out of bed, "I am so sorry Liz" he said as he stared at the passed-out girl who was sound asleep. He all along knew the identity of his 'Shirley Temple', and in the light of day with the sun billowing in from outside, he saw the ramifications of what they had done or what he allowed to have happened in the hours that passed their encounter at the bar. Sighing as he whispered his apologies, while leaning down to kiss her on her forehead, and then bended down and pulled on his clothes, and vanished from the room.
Leaving Liz to sleep it off.
At the same time, memories invaded Liz's mind as she slept, and they were memories of kisses... memories of touches that boarded on erotic... memories of unbelievable passion and heights of being pushed and coming together in a combination of unique chemistry and unmatchable passion and the blissful tenderness.... as her eyes opened at the pounding of the door, and she didn't know if it wasn't also the pounding of her head as she was coming up from under a massive hangover. "Oh god," she whispered as her brain registered where she was and then tears came to her eyes as recognition of the memories that plagued her, as she heard the pounding again and this time it filled the room and she knew it was the door and yet she didn't crawl out of bed because she knew she was naked, and because the memories that filled her head weren't of her love for Max.
But of the night before, the hours before she finally passed out.
Of another man who was not Max.
Max was dead. She was alive, and she had been with someone else, who was not Max.
She cried and wondered if she had finally hit her rock bottom.
The pounding continued on the door as Maria stood behind it and almost wished she could walk away and let her best friend sink or swim on her own. But she knew she had to do this because it was Liz. She couldn't lose someone else she loved. Not after how they lost Alex. Or even Max. To let Liz sink would be too much, and she couldn't do it. She knew her friend was running out of chances and very few people were willing to give her sympathy at this point because they didn’t know why Liz was drowning.
Michael had gone the other direction after losing Max and after watching Isabel relocate to Boston to save her failing marriage. Instead of being a companion to Liz's self-destruction, he had decided to commit to Maria and they had moved into his apartment after graduation. And she had the feeling they were moving towards a more permanent commitment any day now.
Yet here she was trying to save her friend from herself when she should be on the road to Las Cruces, so she could focus on her future. Pounding again, she discovered the door was unlocked and so she elected to open it and enter the motel room, unprepared to find what she did...
"Liz?" Maria asked as she entered the room and had to step around the bottles, and the clothing and she saw that one figure was passed out on the bed, and her eyes were closed. "Liz?" she saw... "Oh god Liz, what did you do?"
"Max's dead, isn't he?" a small voice asked, quietly as she broke the silence in the room as eyes opened and tears were evident on her face.
"Yes, he is petunia," Maria said carefully.
Liz burst down crying, as hysterics filled her for the first time in a long time. She couldn’t stop herself, and she didn’t know if she could even try at this point as it all came pouring out.
"What did you do?" Maria asked even though she had a pretty good guess at just what Liz had done by the fact her friend was in bed, naked, and looking liked she tied one on last night and wasn't showing it that morning.
"I got drunk," Liz admitted. "I mean very drunk."
"Naturally," Maria asked. “That is all you seem to do these days."
"Maria," Liz said as she didn't want to hear on the nose snark about her conduct over the last year.
"Sorry," Maria sighed as she stood know as she knew to cool down her disapproval. "What else did you do?"
"I slept with someone that wasn't Max," Liz said as she burst down crying again, as Maria sat down on the bed, and hugged her friend as she was covered in the sheets. "What am I going to do?"
"Learn to live without the love of your life?" Maria sighed as she gave her shirt and bra to put on, and she looked around the room and saw the disarray in the room. "How did you end up here?"
"He was the bartender from Cow Patties," Liz admitted as brief flashes ran through of her mind of the night before...
"Jeez really Liz," Maria asked hurting for her friend as Liz got dressed, and then pulled on her pants. "Who is he?"
"Someone new," Liz said. "I hadn't seen him before last night."
"What's his name?" Maria asked as Liz got off the bed and walked into the bathroom and only shook her head when she looked in the mirror and saw the pale and hungover face stare right back.
"He said, Rob" Liz said from the bathroom. "Rob Roy"
"Excuse me!" Maria asked as the name brought her back to their one night in Vegas two years before, the one night of happiness for Max and Liz before it was back to their dysfunctional relationship that had never really had a chance of happiness when Max got taken from them.
"But then I don't know if that is his real name since I lied about who I was too."
"Who did you say you were?" Maria asked.
"Shirley Temple," Liz remembered as her fuzzy memory cleared. I didn't have anywhere to go, and he offered to drive me, and we came here, and you know, well, you know happened."
"I gathered," Maria sighed. "Shirley Temple Liz really?"
"I couldn't help myself," Liz sighed. "I didn't want to have to go into the whole story of who I was, and why I was there drowning my sorrows. I already said too much, and since he was new, well, he didn't know me."
"You could have come to my place, you know” Maria murmured. “I expected to see you this morning and I got nervous when I didn't see you asleep on the couch."
"I didn't want lecture," Liz admitted as she thought of the almost daily routine, she went through most mornings. "From either you or Michael."
"We just want you happy Liz, and we fear you're far from being happy and that hurts us, and it would hurt Max to know you're so unhappy."
"Max is gone," Liz said quietly.
"Yes, he is," Maria nodded as she weeded through the crap in the room and found her friend's purse. "He would want you to be kicking butt with your future and not to be stuck on not having him."
"I miss him," Liz admitted. "It's so unfair. He saved my life twice, and I lost him."
"He saved your life so that you can lead it. Not so you can destroy it out of some need to be with him," Maria reasoned.
"I know you're right," Liz admitted.
"Let's go," Maria asked, and she and Liz walked to the door, and left the motel room behind and she had hope that maybe her friend had finally hit her rock bottom and maybe it would be the start of a new beginning.
And it was... for about three months at least...
Meanwhile, the two men were arguing again in lands unknown…
“Are you goddamn stupid. I gave you twenty-four hours to get her under control, and push her into a new life, not to add to the pain.”
“I didn’t look for it to happen,” the other man protested. “I tried my best to convince her to turn a new leaf, but it failed and there was only so much she was going in listening to someone who looked like a stranger which is exactly why she was talking to me in the first place. One thing led to another, and I hate it, but I am not going to feel sorry for it because it’s something I did want.”
“Well you didn’t try hard enough Einstein as you had twenty-four hours before I turned her over to the police to stop her… Now you have given her more of a burden, and in ways you may not even know yet. We made a deal remember and trying to get her under control was part of that deal you made, and you are to live by it otherwise there will be no more second chances, and we have the means to make sure you don’t get another shot”
“Please cut that crap you’re spewing because I think I realize I made a deal and I will of course honor it, and I have so far to the detrimental of my own life, so I may not like it, but I do know what I could stand to lose here. I miss her and unfortunately for my ego; she likely won’t remember me or really sense the truth since she didn’t recognize me otherwise you would be trying to clean up an even bigger mess today. So, how could I stop myself when she’s screwing up her life? Yes, I took it further than I should have but I am not going to be sorry for it because for one night it allowed me to be of some help for her. Plus, I would like to remind you that you promised me you would look after her, and well you lied. So, don’t get mad at me for not living up to the letter of our deal when you barely have done anything to help your side of our agreement. So, screw it because Liz matters a whole more than any agreement or my safety” he ranted as he vanished…
“You just have to deal with this a little while longer,” the other man murmured into thin air in case the air had ears as he reached for the phone.