I'll Be Home for Christmas(ML, MATURE) [COMPLETE]

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Raychelxluscious
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Re: I'll Be Home for Christmas(ML, MATURE)Pt10, pg 11, 1/14

Post by Raychelxluscious » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:14 pm

Hey everyone. (: After today, there's only one more part left. *gulp*

I hope everyone has enjoyed reading thus far, and thank you all so much for the feedback, and endless encouragement. (:

Aurorabee
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ken_r
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- I just looked through the previous feedback to make sure I didn't forget you! Maybe something was amiss with the board when you tried posting, but I didn't see anything. Thanks for the feedback! (:
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- *sigh* I'm not even sure what to say. You're fruity. Sparking a debate on the differences between dwarves and elves? You just couldn't let it go, could you? I'll get you back. *glares* ...hehe!
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- Thank you for the feedback, but I think ken_r, hit the nail right on the head. Actually, I know he did. Furthermore, this fic isn't about holding grudges - it's about letting go of them. I could have done that; I could have made Liz be not so inclined to let it go, but then I'd have another epic on my hands, and unable to complete it. :roll: That's not what I wanted, lol, not at all. I apologize for confusion (making you think that they'd had sex), and I also want to point out that just because Tess and Liz were civil to each other doesn't make them best friends. This story is completed, so I can't say that there's not going to be in a more indepth reconciliation between the two. Though, I appreciate and respect your opinion, and have enjoyed reading your feedback immensely, I'm afraid you might not enjoy these last two parts, considering the circumstances (but I *hope* you do!!). Nevertheless, thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and leaving feedback. (:
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And *big* thanks to steph, for catching my continuity errors that would have mortified me. (:

Thanks again, everyone! Enjoy!



Part Eleven
Holly brought her wrist up to her chest, angrily rubbing the sore flesh. Liz could see the confusion passing over her face, but the teen was too much of a fighter to back down and approach the conversation with decorum – especially not after what Liz had just done.

And honestly, Liz couldn’t find it in herself to care.

Holly glared hard. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Liz heard people enter the apartment. She saw Max move into her peripheral vision, heard Michael tell Maria to stay out, and heard Maria’s not so polite response. She ignored them.

“You lied and told Michael your father and I were getting a divorce,” she snapped angrily. “Now tell me, what is your fucking problem?”

Suddenly, Holly cracked, and all the progress that was made fell by the wayside. Liz saw the change in her immediately. Her dark eyes narrowed to slits and filled with contempt. “You’re my problem, bitch! You have been since the beginning! You ruined my life!”

Having heard it before, Liz rolled her eyes skyward before pinning the teen with angry eyes. “So now, you’re going to ruin mine by telling people you don’t even know that I was divorcing your father? That’s bullshit!”

“You’re a liar!” Holly roared, and pointed an accusing, unsteady finger at her. “I know you were divorcing him!”

Belatedly trying for reason, Liz took a calming breath and rubbed a hand over her face. “Holly, when did we ever give you the impression that we were getting a divorce?”

“When my father spent an entire fucking month on the couch! On the couch that he fucking died on because you didn’t want him anymore!”

Her heart twisted. “No, Holly –”

“No, fuck you!” She yelled belligerently, her face flushing with anger and her eyes bright and shimmering with welling tears. “Don’t tell me that’s not the reason he died there. Don’t!”

“That’s not true. You’re mistaken. I loved your father. I was never going to divorce him.”

“You’re a liar!”

This time, Liz was the one to snap. “You call me a liar one more time, I swear to God I’ll rip you a new asshole!” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Max sidling closer to her, obviously intending to intervene. Infuriated, she advanced on Holly until she was a mere foot in front of her. “Now let me explain a few things to you. One, you’re father wasn’t on the couch for a fucking month. Not that you would know, because you didn’t sneak back home until the early hours of the morning, anyway. In one month, your father slept on the couch the accumulative time of a week. And do you want to know why? He snored, Holly!” Liz threw her arms out wide at the mundane explanation, daring her to challenge. “He snored so loud and so long that it kept me up at night. It was his idea to sleep on the couch those nights – those nights so few and far between. His. Idea. Because he knew I needed rest for all of my upcoming tests the following mornings. So, fuck me, Holly? No, fuck you.”

Holly quieted, a war waging behind her eyes as she struggled to determine if she should believe her or not. “What kind of tests?” She asked meekly.

Liz took a step back, no longer caring, the fight in her diminishing. “It doesn’t matter.”

“No, tell me! You want to convince me – then tell me! What kind of tests, damn it?”

“I said it doesn’t matter! I don’t want to convince you of anything!” Liz paused to heave in a deep breath, looking at Holly as if she’d never seen her before. She should have known. She should have known the anger was too deep to be mended. She should have known that there was nothing she could try that would fix the hurt. She should have known that Holly would always hate her. Weary, Liz continued. “You’ve made your opinion of me abundantly clear, Holly…I’ll see what I can do. Who I can contact in order to find your mother. Your hatred for me is so profound, I wouldn’t dream of forcing you to be in my company any longer than necessary.”

And with those final words, Liz left the apartment without looking back.


She ran all the way to the park. Her heels were unsteady on the concrete, but as soon she hit the grassy ground of the park, she began to stumble, the pegs of her heels sinking into the earth. Cursing, Liz bent to peel off the hindering shoes, and then she was moving again.

“Liz, wait.”

“Go away, Max!”

“No, there’s no way I’m leaving you alone.”

Liz whirled on him then, anger flashing brightly in her eyes. “Why?” She demanded. “Why when you know it’s exactly what I want!” As soon as the anger had surfaced, it vanished only to be replaced with numbing fatigue. Exhausted, she walked a few more steps only to sink onto the park bench and stared blankly into the night. Usually, quiet soothed her; it gave her an opportunity to process and decompress. But the silence of the empty park did nothing to sooth her nerves. Shivering, Liz wrapped her arms around herself.

The cold had returned.

“You didn’t even bring a coat,” Max murmured softly, and she felt the heaviness of his coat being draped over her bare shoulders. A second later, she felt his warmth, piercing into her skin, making her flinch.

He sat next to her and pulled her legs onto his lap, tucking her bare feet under his arm to keep them warm as well. His hands sought out hers, folding them inside of his and rubbing gently.

Wearily, Liz met his gaze. He was so close to her that their puffs of breath mingled in the frigid night air.

“What do you want from me, Max?” She whispered brokenly, her eyes vulnerable and pleading for the truth. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do. Just tell me, please.”

Max smiled softly and leaned his forehead against hers. “I thought it was obvious, Liz Parker,” he whispered back. “I’m trying to win you back.”

Then, he kissed her.

Instantaneously, Liz was flooded with warmth, and she melted against him. It had been so long since she’d felt his kiss and tasted his lips. She had a vague, distant memory of what it was once like that had haunted her dreams. And each time she’d surface from the dream, she felt as if she’d betrayed her husband, albeit subconsciously.

But those memories and dreams were nothing compared to reality.

Max cupped her face in his hands and changed the angle of the kiss. His tongue delved deeper, and his lips pressed firmer. She was definitely warmer now, she realized, as she first gripped his forearms in her hands and then glided them up his biceps to curl over his shoulders. Marveling in the kiss and the feel of him, Liz lost herself. He felt solid, and real. And so warm.

Max pulled back then, his breath coming in short, hurried gasps that immediately crystallized in the air. He pressed his forehead against hers once more, and mentally prepared himself. Smiling, he stroked her cheeks with his thumbs, loving the texture of her skin, hating the hurt in her eyes. “Liz,” he whispered, swallowed, knowing that now wasn’t the time, but unable to help himself. “I—”

“Liz!”

The two broke apart, and she cast a look over her shoulder to see Michael approaching them at a dead run. She groaned. He was the last person she wanted to deal with right now.

“What?” She snapped.

“It’s Holly,” he panted heavily. “She’s crying.”

Liz arched an eyebrow at his insipid answer. “So? She’s a hormonal teenager, who’s seeking attention,” she told him bitterly. “If tears bother you so much then just stay away…And stop mentioning Maria’s belly button!” She added the last part as an after thought.

Michael shook his head, his expression taking on a desperate gleam. “No, she’s really crying,” he said in wonder. “Does she have asthma or something? Because I don’t think she can breathe.”

Liz stilled for a moment, and then jumped up from the bench with a curse and raced out of the park.

By the time she reached the apartment, she could hear the teen’s strangled sobs, barely drowned out by the noises of the party still continuing down below. She darted down the hallway and into her bedroom. While she was gone, her parents had arrived. Nancy stood off to the side, watching the scene with a quivering hand pressed over her mouth. Jeff stood behind her, his hands on her shoulders and offering support. When he met Liz’s gaze, he gave her a small, reassuring smile and a nod.

She looked at Holly, and her stomach clenched. She had collapsed into Maria’s arms, crying desolately into her neck. She must have heard Liz come in, for the next moment Holly raised her head, and upon seeing Liz, then staggered out of Maria’s arms.

“Liz, I’m sorry, I –” she choked and ran to her, halting to a stop just a few inches away, unsure of how close she could get. She tried to continue to speak between violent hiccups. “I’m so sorry, I – did-n’t know, I thought – Mom said you – I’m sorry, Liz. Please. I want – stay. Don’t send me –ack. Sorry – love you, Liz. Please –”

Heart breaking at the sight before her, and cursing her weak will, Liz pulled Holly into her arms. If possible, the girl began to wail louder, clenching her fists into the fabric of Max’s coat as she buried her face into her shoulder. She continued to speak incoherently, her tone pleading and broken.

“Okay,” she soothed and tightened her arms around her, running her hands up and down her back. “It’s okay.”

Liz heard Holly’s muffled apology as she said it over and over into the coat. As the young girl continued to cling to her, holding her so tightly and expressing words that Liz knew came directly from the heart, she began to feel something she’d never thought she feel again.

Tears, as they slid steadily down her cheeks.


Michael glanced from Liz and Holly to a sobbing Nancy, and then finally to Maria, who sat on the bed weeping openly into a tissue. He groaned and then looked at Max.

“If those babies are girls,” he muttered and gestured to Maria’s giant belly. “Then I’m in a world of trouble.”

Max rolled his eyes before pushing at Michael’s shoulder, silently telling him he needed to leave. Michael agreed, but instead of leaving right away, he crossed the room and helped Maria onto unsteady feet and led her out of the room. Jeff ushered his own wife out of the bedroom as well, and down the hallway. Max began to follow but paused with his hand on the doorknob. He looked over his shoulder and met Liz’s tearful gaze in the mirror. Smiling softly at her, he turned his back and walked out.


TBC
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Re: I'll Be Home for Christmas(ML, MATURE)Pt11, pg 14, 1/16

Post by Raychelxluscious » Fri Jan 18, 2008 6:46 pm

Hello everyone.

((Soooo sorry this is late. I got home from classes at 4, and the internet has been out since then. Now it's back, so here I am!))

So, this is it. This is the final part. And someone pleaded that it be a long one, lol. It is. Well, kind of. It's longer than the others have been, and chock full of stuff. Simply because I refused to break it into another part, especially after I realized this final chapter would be on a Friday. I thought it was the perfect day to end it; so, I stuck with it. (:

At any rate, thank you *all* so much for reading this story; I hope that any lingering questions you've had have been answered. Thank you for giving it a chance, and for leaving such amazing, encouraging, and uplifting feedback. You all are wonderful, and you made writing this little fic worthwhile. So, thank you again.

LairaBehr4 - Haha! I understand now why you were confused about the baby's daddy, lol. Jack died the year before...you'll read that in this part. ;)
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- Thank you so much for coming out of lurking to leave me feedback! It's always appreciated, and I'm happy to know you enjoyed reading this so much! Thanks!
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- It snowed there, too, eh? For some reason, I didn't think you Georgians would get much snow to call for a cancellation in schools. We were getting hammered here the other day, too. And just when they were getting ready to call an early dismissal, it started raining and melted away the snow. All the kids were disappointed, lol. Thanks for reading, Ms. Wendy! (: Love ya for it!
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Lurkers ...
- those who have popped up, and those who have remained silent. (: Thank you.


Steph, thank you so much for beta-ing through illness, at work - for catching my continuity errors, and my silly grammatical mistakes that make me wonder if I'm just stupid, or if it's because I'm a WVian. Thank you for giving me a mental slap whenever I'd whine about how sucky this is and for nearly not sending you this last part in time. You are an *amazing* beta, and even if you were chock-full of viruses, I'd still want to endure this blossoming relationship with you. (: You are the best. (PS, I added a tiny bit to the end that I forgot, because I'm dumb. You'll see it. ;))



Part Twelve
After Liz had stormed out of the apartment, and Nancy and Jeff had stormed in, Maria had taken initiative and explained to the raging teenager the entire misunderstanding; she explained why she’d found her father sleeping on the couch. She explained that the tests that Liz had alluded to were weekly visits to the obstetrician in order to check the progress of her pregnancy. A pregnancy Liz and Jack had decided to keep to themselves until after her first trimester, only after they discovered it was going to be a difficult one. Liz had been but a month along when she found out she was pregnant. It was not too long afterwards she’d noticed bleeding and had developed sharp pain in her abdomen. Fearing the worst, Jack had rushed her to the hospital and the doctor told her she hadn’t miscarried, explaining the pain away for something she ate. When the bleeding continued and the pain worsened, a more in-depth test discovered a tear in the placenta.

Immediately, Liz was placed on medication and ordered to visit the doctor weekly. Due to her teaching schedule and extra curricular activities, the only times conducive for her were the earliest appointments available. The night before her first appointment, Liz hadn’t gotten much sleep because of Jack’s snoring, and thus she’d been miserable all day. After that, Jack had decided to sleep on the couch whenever she had an appointment in order for her to get adequate rest. Those were the nights that Holly had snuck home, after a late night partying and rebelling, and found her father asleep on the couch. She had shared this with Danny, and he had told her his dad had slept on the couch for a year, before his parents finally divorced. With that seed planted in her fertile mind, Holly assumed the worst.

Though, they had agreed not to tell anyone about the pregnancy, Liz hadn’t been able to keep the secret from one person: Maria, who had an incredible knack for prying information out of her. Under the ever watchful eye of her husband, she followed doctor’s orders and maintained a relatively stress free pregnancy. For a while, at least.

Jack died the first week of December. The baby followed two weeks later.

As Maria explained, Holly instantly realized her error, and she began screaming for Liz to come back, her voice cracking from the strain. The hot tears followed immediately, and she sobbed so hard that it seemed as if she were having difficulty breathing. It was then that Michael went after Liz, while Maria and Nancy remained, trying to comfort her in any way they could. But nothing had worked; she’d kept calling for Liz, pleading for her to come back, apologizing profusely, brokenly into a room devoid of the person who needed to hear it.

After Liz had come back, and Holly had calmed down, they retired to the couch and had a long, overdue talk. Holly told her everything she’d endured during the years she’d live with her mother. The physical, borderline sexual abuse from her mother’s boyfriends, the emotional abuse from her mother – when she was drunk enough to “not know any better.” The lies her mother fed her about Liz. The lies that had wretched Holly from Liz’s corner for years. Liz had taken her father away. Liz didn’t allow her father to come get her, wouldn’t allow him to call. Liz didn’t like Holly. Lie, after lie, she fed to a child, and as she got older, the lies only festered until it had spawned into an unmerited hatred.

Holly had said, at first, it was hard to believe with all the memories she had of Liz being so kind to her and so loving. Natalie had squashed those memories as well, telling her Liz was only being nice because she had to be, because she wanted to marry her father. Liz secretly hated her, and wanted her gone so that she could start a new family – one that didn’t consist of Holly. What could a nine year old do, but believe the story her mother wove? A woman who claimed to love her more than her father and his wife.

“I never hated you,” Liz had whispered to her that night, and brushed Holly’s tangled mass of curls out of her face. “I adored you.”

She cried all over again, curling into Liz’s side and hugging her close.

Liz had cried, too. She had cried so much that she wondered if it would ever stop. The tears did stop, of course. And she woke up the next morning in bed, with Holly curled up beside her, and with aching eyes. She’d never felt so good in her life.

Maria had arrived that same morning, her own eyes red and swollen as well. She’d confessed that she hadn’t been able to stop crying until Michael got her home and forced her into bed. Then, she produced a chilled cucumber and ordered them into the living room. It was there that the three girls spent the remainder of the morning, lounging in the living room, slices of cucumbers on their eyes and a heavy weight off their shoulders.

It was there that Holly presented Liz with her Christmas gift. Momentous in the fact that it was the first gift Holly had ever picked out herself, and had ever spent her own money on. Years prior, Jack had bought gifts for Liz, and signed her name to it. Now, it was different.

Liz opened the brightly wrapped package to reveal a simple, sterling silver picture frame. Behind the clear glass was a candid snap shot of Holly and Liz, at the bowling alley. They eyes were alit with laughter; they were leaning into each other. Their faces oblivious of the shroud of tension that usually surrounded them.

Upon her shocked expression, Holly explained to Liz that she’d purchased the gift the day they’d gone to the mall, and hid the evidence in her Victoria’s Secret bag. Tears welled up in Liz’s eyes, prompting Holly to sniffle as well. And soon, Maria was blubbering incoherently into a tissue, plucked from her perpetual box of Kleenex. She hated being pregnant.

They all three hugged, wiped their eyes and continued on with their feminine afternoon. Maria noticed that the tension between stepmother and daughter had lessened significantly, but there was still a strain there that would only dissipate with time. Each harbored guilt for things that they could never change. Each wondered how things would be different – if Liz had pushed Jack to go after Holly sooner, if Holly had been strong enough to see past her mother’s lies and recognize the love that had always been there. They would never know the answers to those questions, but one thing was abundantly clear: their wounds were healing.


“Liz, what are you doing?”

Wrapped up in a blanket and nestled in the corner of the couch, Liz looked up from the TV. Holly stood at the entrance of the hallway, dressed up in a black dress and her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail; her hands were propped on her dainty hips as she eyed her expectantly. Liz pointed at the TV with her remote. “I’m watching It’s A Wonderful Life. I didn’t get to watch on Christmas Eve, as is tradition, so I’m watching it now.”

“You’re supposed to be getting ready for the New Year’s Eve party,” Holly pointed out and glanced at her watch, then she hitched a thumb over her shoulder. “Now, get moving.”

Liz grimaced and sank further into the couch. “You go. I’ll stay.”

“Liz.”

“Holly.”

Glaring, Holly walked across the living room and seated herself beside of her stepmother. She looked at the TV, watching as James Stewart bounded through the snow, arms high in the air and yelling excitedly. She could relate. The man on screen had just been given another chance. And as she looked over at Liz, her face bright with enrapture, Holly knew she’d been given one as well.

Deftly, she plucked the remote out of Liz’s hands and turned off the TV.

“Hey!” Liz yelped indignantly. “That was the best part!”

Holly placed the remote on the coffee table, out of Liz’s reach. Then, she pinned her with a solemn expression. “We need to have another talk.”

Her face grew panicked, and she wrapped the blanket more tightly around her body. “Is it going to make me cry?” She asked, desperately. “Because I don’t know what I was thinking, wishing I could cry again, and I’m all out of cucumbers.”

Holly stared down at her freshly manicured fingernails, and recalled the morning Liz had selfishly offered her comfort in order to mend her broken, angry, teenaged heart. She remembered the words she said – the words that had been perfect, and that had rang so true. Now, she wished she could offer her the same courtesy.

“I know now why you brought me here, Liz,” she said softly, her hands wringing together nervously. Looking up at her, she smiled, one of her genuine smiles that had become commonplace since moving to Roswell. “This place – I don’t know how you could have ever left. Behind the ridiculous theme, and the quirky people, and the oftentimes insane weather this town is…Amazing. Your friends are amazing. Your mother,” Holly stopped, grinned and shook her head in disbelief. “I never thought I’d appreciate someone like her. I never thought that I would look at you and not feel hatred.”

Liz took a deep breath, her eyes pinned on Holly’s. Despite the fact her father’s eyes had been green, and Holly’s eyes were brown, Liz was able to see a part of Jack inside of her. She was giving her that intense look that Jack always gave her, and she saw the naked truth that shone through whenever the subject matter was one of importance. She tensed and remained silent, allowing Holly to continue without interruption.

“You brought me here because – after everything that happened since I came to live with you guys again – this was the last place you were ever truly happy. This was the place where you could come and be normal again. Not some widow, burdened with an out of control stepdaughter. You could just be you. And you wanted me to find that same thing, didn’t you? You wanted something normal for me,” when Liz nodded, Holly fell silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts. She reached out her hand and grasped Liz’s. “You wanted me to heal, Liz. And I have,” she shrugged, a tiny smile on her face as she amended, “A little. There are still parts of me broken, but everyday I feel better.” Everyday was like this new ray of sunshine piercing through the darkness that was her father’s death.

Holly squeezed Liz’s hand. “Now, it’s your turn,” she whispered, and shifted on the couch so that she was facing Liz more fully. “You told me that very few people end up with their first love, do you remember that? You told me that it doesn’t happen for everyone…but, I think it’s supposed to happen for you.”

Liz straightened, and tried to pull her hand from Holly’s grasp and stop her from saying anything else, but the girl remained steady. She tightened her grip and shook her head to prevent Liz from saying anything. “No, please, listen,” she swallowed quickly. “I don’t think Max was preparing you for Daddy. I think it was the other way around.”

Abruptly, Liz shook her head, and this time, Holly couldn’t stop her from speaking. “No, it doesn’t work that way,” she insisted.

“Who says?” Holly demanded roughly. “Who says we’re not meant to be with our first loves all along? Maybe it’s just something we have to work hard to achieve.” When Liz’s gaze narrowed, Holly rushed on, reading into her expression. “I’m not saying that I’m meant to be with Danny. I’m not even sure if I loved him to begin with. I’m beginning to realize it’s a complicated emotion.”

Smiling wryly, she paused, watching as Liz silently regarded her with a stubborn look on her face. “I mean it, Liz. I think that Daddy was preparing you for Max. I think he was here to help you. To help you get over the hurt that Max had caused. I know the story. The whole story now,” she smiled softly, gently and squeezed Liz’s hand again. “He broke your heart, remember? Well, Mom broke our hearts, too, and when you came into the picture – you fixed it. You fixed Daddy, you fixed me. And admit it, he fixed you, too.”

Smiling sadly, Liz cupped Holly’s cheek. “You both did,” she whispered. “I loved your father very much.”

Holly’s eyes began to brim with tears. “I know you did. I no longer question that, Liz. I know you made him happy.”

“And he made me happy.”

Holly quietly regarded Liz, trying to read the expression in her eyes. Trying to see if she was getting through to her. She sighed. “Don’t be afraid to get involved with Max again, because of what he did to you in the past,” she suggested. “He’s changed.”

Liz’s brows quirked at that. “You didn’t even know him,” then she pinned her with a quizzical gaze. “And I thought you didn’t like him to begin with.”

She shrugged. “I admit, I didn’t like him based upon stories I’d heard, and what he’d done to you,” she grinned wryly. “You never would have gotten me to admit it before, but I was feeling a mite protective of you.”

Liz laughed out right, and hugged Holly to her side. “Do you realize what you just said?” She asked behind her mirth. “We have got to get you away from Kyle. He’s turning you into a local.”

Holly laughed, too, and pushed herself away. Immediately, her hands went to her hair, patting down any misplaced curls. Liz smiled, and tucked a strand behind her ear. “You look beautiful.”

They stared at each other for a moment, another piece of strain dissipating in the air between them. “I’m not going to convince you to come, am I?”

Liz shook her head. “I’m afraid not,” she answered softly. “I’m just not in a party kind of mood.”

Defeated, Holly stood and made her way to the door. Liz told her to have a good time as she reached for the remote, and started the movie again. She settled back into the comfy cushions of the couch as Holly stared at her.

“I think it speaks volumes that he hasn’t moved on after all these years,” Holly spoke quietly, and she could tell by the way Liz tensed she’d heard her. “And I think it’s insanely romantic that he’s tried so hard to win you back – right from the start. Because it is obvious that’s what he’s doing, Liz.”

If Holly had expected an answer, she was disappointed. Liz remained quiet and still for a few moments, before she finally turned up the volume to the TV. Holly watched her for brief second longer, before she turned the knob and made her way out of the apartment. As she closed the door behind her, she silently asked her father to push Liz in the right direction.



From the driver’s seat, she watched as the snow fell. She watched every glistening, sparkling flake – further enhanced by the moon’s beams – flutter to the snow-dusted ground. She watched through the large windows at the silhouettes of energetic people, dancing and bustling around. She smiled. She could almost hear their laughter beneath the loud music playing inside. She could practically see all the smiling, flushed faces of the town’s people as they celebrated the New Year. And now, more than ever, she wanted to be celebrating with them.

Stepping out of the car, Liz’s smile deepened. Snow had a distinct smell. Sweet. Cold. Happy. And she wondered now if Jack believed her, for surely he’d catch a whiff of the elusive scent as he helped sprinkle out the snow. Closing her eyes, she took a deep lungful of that sweet scent – relishing in the coolness as it entered her lungs.

When she opened them again, she felt confident. She felt able. She felt ready.

As she began to make her way to the entrance, it occurred to her that this would be only the second time in ten years that she’s stepped foot inside of Roswell’s bowling alley. Save for the recent trip with Alex, Holly, and Maria, the bowling alley didn’t produce any happy, nostalgia for her. Now, she was hoping to change that.

She pulled open the heavy doors and her ears were immediately assaulted by loud, happy music. The overhead lights were dimmed, enhancing the Christmas lights strung all around the ceiling and counters. Voices mingled with the sounds of heavy bowling balls clunking against the wooden floor, and hollow thumps as the pins clattered from the force, all in an incoherent mixture. Smiling faces surrounded her. As she entered, her eyes darted around, seeking that familiar face.

She saw Maria first, and by the pleased expression on her best friend’s face, Liz knew she wasn’t surprised by her sudden appearance – especially after she’d been so adamant about not attending. She smiled sheepishly at Maria, before her eyes began to scan the crowd again. Everyone who saw her gave her a warm greeting, and wished her a happy new year. She returned the sentiment, all the while her eyes searching the mass of people.

Liz spotted Holly next. She was standing next to Jordan and Jeana, laughing at something another teen had said. Liz heard that laughter from across the room, and it warmed her inside. It was a long time coming – getting Holly to let loose and laugh like that again. Each smile she offered people, each giggle she allowed to escape, was just as precious as the first. Holly’s brown eyes met hers, and sparkled brightly with realization. She smiled broadly, and waved, before pointing in the direction of the first bowling lane across the building. Liz turned, and over the crowd she saw a familiar dark head of hair, and knew that’s where she had to go.

Smiling at Holly, she waved back and made her through the heavy throng of people. When it was so important for her to get there, it figured that she’d be stopped by someone.

“Liz.”

She turned around again, and saw Tess standing nervously behind her.

“Can I speak to you for a second?” She pleaded.

Liz glanced longingly over her shoulder, then at her wristwatch, before finally agreeing. “Sure.”

Tess ushered Liz over to a less crowded area of the bowling alley, which happened to be in the corner where the soda machines were placed. “I heard about what happened at the Christmas party,” she began. “Between you and Holly.”

Liz’s face flushed, embarrassed. Naturally, everyone would hear about. Everyone would be privy to the tiniest detail – undoubtedly, some details would be fabricated – and nothing would be left out. But such was the perks of living in a small town. She laughed nervously. “That doesn’t surprise me. Nothing’s a secret in this town.”

Tess chuckled as well, and tucked a strand of blonde hair nervously behind her ear. “You’re right. Which is why I thought that maybe,” she swallowed. “I thought maybe I could help.”

Confused, Liz frowned and shook her head slightly. “Help with…?” she prompted

“Holly,” Tess elaborated. “After hearing what she’s gone through, I think it might help if she had someone to talk to. Friends help, of course, but sometimes it’s more beneficial to speak with a –”

“Psychologist,” Liz supplied, and was surprised to find that she didn’t like how it sounded. She frowned. “And that’s what you are? A psychologist?”

Tess’s smile was soft and understanding. “I’m a school counselor, actually, for a high school in Dexter. So, I deal with personal issues with teens everyday. But I am working towards getting my PhD in psychology.”

She stared at her warily, a bit unconvinced, and Tess shifted nervously. “I know that no parent wants to admit that their child may need to talk to a professional,” at the sound of that, a soft smile played on Liz’s face. Tess went on, “– or even a paraprofessional – but believe me when I know that it helps.”

It was on the tip of Liz’s tongue to ask her just how much she knew about the subject matter, but she stopped herself. It wasn’t her business to pry, and besides, she was confident that Tess Harding knew exactly what she was talking about.

Staring at her, Liz recalled the first time she’d seen the attractive blonde, years ago. She was the new girl in school, who ended up dropping out after the first month. Being in a small town, everybody knew everybody else’s business. And it wasn’t soon before long that word spread, revealing what kind of home life Tess had. Her father, Ed Harding, was an alcoholic. Her mother, Shelia, was dead. Liz remembered hearing that Ed had up and left, not six months after they’d moved to Roswell, leaving Tess to fend for herself.

At the time, Liz hadn’t believed it. She found it completely unfathomable that any parent would abandon their child. Now, as she stared into Tess’s steady, yet weary, kind, yet guarded eyes, she began to question just how much of that story was true. And what kind of affect it had on her as a teenager.

They’d never been friends. They’d never interacted outside of school; had barely interacted inside of school, save for the day she was assigned as her biology partner. When she dropped out at the end of the week, Liz had been assigned a new one – and barely thought of Tess Harding again.

That was, until she saw her, slender arms wrapped around her boyfriend’s waist, blue eyes staring up at him seductively as he smiled down at her in turn. That slow, special smile that Liz had thought was reserved only for her.

She never forgot the night Max had duped her into catching them out on a date. A date that, for all intents and purposes, had ended just the way he had wanted it to. Her young, vulnerable heart had been broken – fooled – and she’d left Roswell a week before she’d originally planned.

And Liz knew why he’d done it now. His confession on her balcony had answered the questions that had haunted her for years. He had done it for her. Liz had wanted to laugh at the ridiculous notion. If Max had wanted to make sure things between them worked, then he wouldn’t have deceived her, he wouldn’t have hurt her, or angered her.

Liz would never have left Roswell with a broken heart. And in all likelihood, she never would have succumbed to Jack’s charm. She never would have fallen in love with his little girl, and never would have been a part of her eventual healing process.

And for that alone, she couldn’t be resentful.

It was apparent that Tess was growing increasingly uncomfortable by Liz’s continual silence. Her eyes darkened and the warmth left them. “Look, I was just trying to help. I thought that maybe we could bury that hatchet and –”

“Thank you,” Liz interrupted, her voice soft and calm, and immediately halting Tess’s rant. She smiled. “I think that it might actually help her. She’s gone through a lot, and I think there’s still plenty she’s not sharing so…I’ll talk to her about it. See what she thinks.”

Tess actually seemed a bit taken aback, but she quickly recovered and nodded her head. “You can get a hold of me through Kyle. If you have any questions or anything,” as she said this, she began to take a few steps backwards, efficiently ending the conversation.

“I will,” Liz promised. “And thank you again.”

Tess nodded once more, before turning on her heel and disappearing in the crowd.

And Liz was back on task, back to sidling her way through the crowd and reaching her destination.

“Liz.”

She groaned aloud and whirled back around. When she saw him, her eyes narrowed and she muttered a heartfelt curse, and then, “You have got to be kidding me.”

Michael scratched behind his ear; it was a nervous gesture that Maria spoke often about. “Listen, I just wanted to, uh…” he paused, cleared his throat, scratched his ear again, and then remained quiet.

She looked pointedly down at her watch, before lifting her gaze. “What, Michael? The ball is going to drop in fifteen minutes and I have some place to be.”

He glared, then sighed, and rolled his eyes skyward. “Okay, I’m just gonna say it. I’m…Shit,” he muttered. He crossed his arms, only to uncross them a moment later and allow them to dangle weightless at his sides. “I’m sorry, okay? There. That’s it. I’m sorry.”

Liz quirked an eyebrow at him, unwittingly prompting him to continue.

He groaned. “I know we’ve never gotten along, but damnit, Liz, for as long as I’ve known you you’ve had this air about you. You stuck your nose up at this town and the people, always talking about how you couldn’t wait to get out. As if it were beneath you or something,” when Liz opened her mouth to interject, he raised his hand to silence her. “Just gimme a minute to finish, okay? I know that wasn’t any excuse. I realize now that we just have a clash of personalities, and face it, neither of us have ever gone out of our way to be overly nice to each other,” he glanced over his shoulder then, and stared at his wife. “Not even for Maria, who has been damn accepting of it for longer than merited.”

He paused again, his gaze downcast, and Liz remained quiet – giving him that moment he asked for. “I heard what you said,” he began again, his eyes lifting and pinning hers. “To Maria that day at the Crash. I was picking her up for our date. You didn’t see me, but I was there. I heard you say that I wasn’t good enough for her.”

Liz took a deep breath, regret flashing in her eyes, but still, she remained quiet.

“And it pissed me off. It was the worse date that Maria and I ever had. All I kept thinking about was what you said, and it bothered me because…I knew you were right. I wasn’t good enough for her,” his eyes darkened with emotion. “Not then, but I am now.”

“I know that, Michael,” Liz said quickly, needing to apologize for the hurt she had inadvertently caused years ago. “I should have never said it, and I’m sorry. You are good for her, Michael, and you always have been. You made her happy when we were teens, and you make her happy now. I never appreciated you for that – for making my best friend smile everyday.”

He nodded. “And I didn’t either. Appreciate you for what you did for Max,” this time, Liz’s gaze averted. “He never told me, y’know. What he’d planned that night? The night you came here and saw him with Tess. He never told me because he knew I’d talk him out of it.”

Immediately, her gaze went back to his, and he grinned. “I said I never appreciated how you affected Max, not that I didn’t see it. I knew you were the best thing to ever happen to him, and he knew that if he told me, it would mean that – for once – I’d be on your side,” he shook his head. “I don’t think he could have stood to have his best friend in your corner. Not under the circumstances,” he took a deep breath, shifting his weight uncomfortably. “So, I went on thinking that you’d have enough of this town and what it couldn’t offer you. That you’d had enough of Max – so, you left. Even when Maria told me what had really happened, I didn’t believe it. I thought you both were mistaken. And Max and I never talked about it, because he didn’t want to, so we didn’t. Not until about a week ago,” Michael paused on final time to heave a deep breath and then continued, “So, anyway, for what it’s worth…I’m sorry.”

Liz found that it was worth a lot. She nodded softly, a small smile on her face. “Thank you,” she murmured, and then shook her head. “I mean, it’s okay. And I apologize as well. It seems like every sour relationship I have has been based upon misconceptions.”

Michael nodded as well, then, lifting his arms from his sides, he frowned and said, “So, do we…Are we supposed to hug this out or something?”

Liz bit her lip, amused, before she finally spoke, “I think a hug would be nice.”

The hug was brief and terribly clumsy, but it warmed Liz nevertheless. When they parted, Michael’s gaze was darting awkwardly around the room. “Okay…I gotta go do something,” he murmured.

Liz laughed, scrunching her face up. “Me, too.”

He eyed her a moment longer, before his gaze darted over her shoulder and in the direction she’d been aiming for. A small smirk formed on his lips, before he nodded one final time, and turned away.

Determined, Liz whirled around once more. She looked down at her watch as she shuffled her way between bodies, noting that there wasn’t much time left. She glanced at the TV, saw Ryan Seacrest interviewing a final celeb before the official countdown would begin.

She walked faster. The crowd cleared, and she saw him, standing at the last lane, waiting for his bowing ball to come off the conveyor belt. Liz stopped. She noted that his mother and sister sat behind him, thoroughly disinterested in the game, but not wanting to break tradition.

Liz stared, watching as Max rolled back the cuff of his sleeve and peered down at his watch. She watched as a frown pleated his brow, only to be replaced with a look of sheer determination. She watched as he started to turn, his gaze scanning the crowd, only to stop when he caught sight of her.

She stood rooted in place, finding that the only thing she could do was smile.

And she watched as he moved. Coming towards her, pausing only briefly enough to say something to his family, and then his strides were long and quick. Liz’s noticed the intrigued posture that befell Diane and Isabel. Her face flushed, suddenly feeling embarrassed – but it didn’t last long. He was right in front of her.

As he smiled down at her, Liz shivered. That incongruous shiver you get when you’re not cold – but warm. When you’re body has been cold for so long, that the minute it’s hit with a blast of warm air it shivers. She smiled.

“Hi.”

Max grinned. “I told myself that if you weren’t here by fifteen ‘til, then I was coming after you,” his hand lifted to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m glad you came.”

Her smile widened. “Me, too.”

They stared at each other for a moment, and then his frown was back. “We need to talk,” he insisted, and reached down to clasp her hand in his. “C’mon.”

And then, he was leading her to the side exit of the building. He pushed through the heavy door and pulled her into the cold night air. The temperature, which usually fluctuated, remained a steady, bitter degree. Thankfully, this time she was armed with her coat for this particular venture.

He pulled her into the middle of the jam-packed parking lot. A snowflake fell into her eyelash, and she blinked it away with a laugh. Max smiled, and looked up into the dark night sky, watching as the glittering specks of fluff scattered to the earth. Then, he pinned her with a somber expression, his eyes holding a multitude of emotions that had Liz catching her breath.

“There’s a lot I want to say to you,” he confessed softly. “So much that I’ve wanted to say to you since you’ve been back. But I thought it was wise to pace myself.”

She nodded mutely, silently encouraging him to say whatever he wanted to say – so, that she could do the same.

He swallowed. “First, I was an idiot for ever thinking that we couldn’t be together, simply because we wanted different things. And I was an asshole for what I did to you that night,” his eyes sharpened with the regret that passed through them, and he leaned his forehead against hers. “It was stupid, and juvenile and I wish, more than anything, that I had done it all differently. I would have made you go to Harvard, Liz, even though I knew you wanted me to tell you to stay. I would have called you every morning, and every night. There never would have been a day that you didn’t know how much I loved you.”

She silently listened to his words. And damnit, if tears didn’t start welling up in her eyes again. As she blinked them away, she wondered for the umpteenth time what she’d been thinking.

“I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I broke your heart. But I wasn’t lying when I said I broke my heart that night, too,” he confessed baldly. “I told you I was an asshole. I hurt you, I hurt myself, and I used a girl that was already suffering emotional rejection as it was.” He straightened, towering over her once more. His hands glided up her arms to rest on her shoulders, he squeezed and closed his eyes for a moment. “I wish I could take it all back.”

Liz shook her head. “No,” she whispered, and watched as his eyes wretched open. “Because then I never would have met Jack. I never would have experienced what he gave me. I wouldn’t have Holly now.”

His hands cupped her face, his thumbs brushing back and forth across her cheeks. She smiled as she pressed her hands against his. “I’ll admit to you,” she began to speak again. “That there was a time when I thought that I never wanted to see you again. I wished for some pretty vile things to happen to you, Max, because every time I thought about you, I hurt.” She paused to lick her lips, and then went on, “I would still hurt even after I married Jack, even after I was happy and I had moved on. I still hurt because no one ever forgets their first love. I don’t think I ever wanted to forget you.”

“I don’t want you to forget me either,” he said. “I certainly never forgot you.”

Smiling, she pulled his hands from her face. Holding them, she allowed their clasped hands to dangle between their bodies. “I can’t regret him, Max. Even knowing now, that we weren’t meant to be together forever, I can’t regret Jack. He helped me heal after you,” she confessed. “He even helped me heal after he died. If he hadn’t asked me to do everything I could to keep Holly with me, I don’t know if I would have thought to come home when I did. I don’t know how long I would have stayed out there, just wasting away.”

“So, you’d do it all over again?”

Her nod was swift and confident. “Even if I knew it would all end up the same way, I’d do it again,” she paused, regarded him slyly, and smiled. “I think Holly was right.”

His brow quirked in question, and his fingers squeezed around hers. “How so?”

“I don’t think you were preparing me for Jack. I think he was preparing me for you.”

Max grinned, his eyes gleaming as he stared down at her. “She said that, huh?” When Liz nodded, he laughed. “I thought she didn’t like me.”

“Well, she didn’t, but she’s obviously very smart.”

The tender smile that played on her lips had Max reaching for her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. “I think she’s very smart,” he agreed.

Liz’s gaze fell, and for a moment she focused on the collar of his shirt. He wasn’t wearing a coat, and she felt him shiver. When she met his stare again, she swallowed. “I’m ready, Max,” she whispered. “Ever since Jack died, I’ve felt so cold and alone. I’m ready for that to change now. I’m ready to be warm again.”

His arms tightened around her, pulling her closer, and he rested his forehead once more against hers. Even without his coat, he emanated the elusive heat that she’d been yearning for so long. She curled into him, breathing his air, embracing the comfort he offered.

She saw him look at his watch, and that smile that always made her melt spread across his face. “5…4…3…” He whispered. “2…1.”

They met together in a tender kiss. His lips softly molding against hers, his hands roaming up her back, one to stop at the base of her neck, the other to continue on into the mass of her hair. Liz felt that rush, and fisted her hands in the fabric of his shirt in an attempt to keep him with her. To stop the kiss from ending.

It did, however, but when Max once again wrapped his arms around her, and she tucked her head beneath his chin, she knew that everything was going to be okay.

Then, he said the words that she’d been longing to hear from him, and hadn’t even realized it.

“I’ll keep you warm.”




The End


Raychel
Last edited by Raychelxluscious on Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
writing is a socially accepted form of schizophrenia

Roswell, New Mexico S1 Watch Party

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