Passion (M&M & CC/UC, AU, Adult, ) (Complete)

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April
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Re: Passion (M&M & CC/UC, AU, Adult, Pt. 121, 10/12/08, Pg. 31)

Post by April » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:08 pm

Hey, guys! Just thought I'd pop in and post these! Thanks to everyone who nominated/voted for Passion. I really wasn't expecting these!
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I really wasn't expecting this one! :lol:

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(For Amy DeLuca)

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for Supporting Portrayal of Liz Parker, Supporting Portrayal of Max Evans, Favorite Alternate Portrayal of a Canon Character (Tess), and Favorite Unconventional/Unique Friendship (Michael/Alex)

Thanks once again to all those who nominated and voted for me, and congratulations to all winners, runners-up, and nominees!



Update tomorrow!

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
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Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2004 9:32 am
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Part 122

Post by April » Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:04 am

starcrazed:
I think I kinda understand that weird first scene so don't worry about me thinking your on drugs...unless somebody slipped me something too
:shock: Somebody probably did, because I'll admit, that dream scene was really weird, lol
nibbles:
I have to say, I love this Liz. She's awesome. Max is clearly a good influence on her.
You see, that's how I feel. I've read so many fics where Liz is this goddess who can do no wrong, so I really wanted to write a deeply flawed and mistaken character and show her growth. You're right, Max is a good influence on her. ;)
Alien_Friend:
I'm not convinced by Amy's act. I don't blame Maria for being so hostile.
Yeah, I'm with you there. If I were Maria, I'd be wary of trusting Amy, too.
spacegirl23: Yeah, poor little Maria. She did bring a lot of this on herself, but at the same time, I'm not sure anyone deserves to feel as horrible as she does right now. Besides, like, serial killers, obviously.
tequathisy:
What's up with Amy? I'd like to think she's changed but I doubt it.
And that's exactly how Maria's feeling right now, hoping in her heart that Amy has changed but thinking in her mind that it's just not possible.
Sara:
I loved that whole dream sequence...very intriguing and different.
Oh, good, I'm glad you thought so! It was really very fun to write, because I've never written anything like it before.
Christina:
I'm past caring about Michael.
I'm sure you're not the only one. I guess my challenge will be to make you guys care about him again before this is all over with!
art_junkie: Thanks!
simplyshiny: Imagine how happy you'll be if/when Michael finally does "pull his head out of his ass." :lol:
killjoy:
Second we have Maria ....she talks alot about wanting people to forgive her but when it comes to giving it to her mom and putting the past behind them she's not for it.Maybe Amy is up to something....who knows....but if Maria is unwilling to give it she won't get any forgiveness either.
That's a really good point. Maria is a kind of confusing girl by nature, so it comes as no surprise that her philosophy on forgiveness seems to be rather contradictory.
Ashley:
The dream was drug induced like, but that tends to happen when your sub-conscious is trying to tell you something.
That's true. Just the other night, I had this wacked out dream that I was a contestant on Big Brother 11. Maybe that's my subconscious telling me I should try out for the show! :lol: Or maybe not!
Krista:
I'm getting so tired of Michael's stupidity.
You know, it's a combination of stupidity and stubbornness. Which is a bad combination. Now that Michael's in L.A., he's kind of set on staying there because he doesn't want to admit he made a mistake, doesn't want to admit he was wrong.








Part 122









Maria frowned when she opened up the refrigerator. What she was looking for wasn’t there. “No fair,” she whined. “Kyle took all the alcohol with him.” She shut the door and spun around to face her mother. Amy was looking at her with worry in her eyes.

“You’re drinking again?” she asked.

Maria grunted and shrugged. “Not really. Once in awhile. What’s the word I’m looking for? Sporadically. That’s it.”

“Do you think that’s wise?”

“Hell no.” Maria threw herself down on the couch and sighed. “Oh, well.” She was hoping her mother might actually refrain from sitting down beside her, but of course Amy had to make herself comfortable. She sat down next to Maria and started in.

“Not ‘oh, well,’ Maria. I know you may think you’re the girl who can drink the boys under the table, but the fact of the matter is, the female body isn’t as equipped to handle massive amounts of alcohol. All it takes is four drinks, and you’ve already been binge drinking. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it is real.”

“Unfortunate reality?” Maria echoed. “Well, it sucks. Why is it that girls always have more problems than guys? Why are girls always the ones to get shafted?

“It’s not an equality issue, Maria; it’s a health issue.”

Maria made a face and remarked, “You sound like a walking textbook.”

“I’m just giving you the facts.”

“No, you’re giving me a lecture. I knew you couldn’t resist. You can go on and on about how much you’ve changed, but at the end of the day, you still wanna impart all your so-called wisdom on me because I’m such a fuckin’ failure.”

Amy shook her head forcefully. “No. No, you couldn’t be more wrong, Maria.”

“See, that’s what you think about me. You think I’m always wrong.”

“Well, you are wrong. About me,” Amy insisted. “I have changed. I do love you and I want you to be around for me to tell you that. So do I think you should drown your sorrows, take chances with your life? No, of course not.”

“Oh, believe me, if you knew what my sorrows were, you’d be drowning ‘em, too,” Maria assured her.

“I don’t know. Because you won’t tell me,” Amy pointed out. “All I know is that your friends aren’t here, but I don’t know why.”

“Fine, you wanna know why?” Maria barked out angrily. “You wanna know why they’re gone? I’ll give you the condensed version. Kyle moved in with Tess. No big surprise there. I’m okay with that. Max . . . moved in with Liz.”

“Liz . . . Michael’s girlfriend?” Amy asked curiously.

“Dreaded ex,” Maria informed her. “Max proposed to me.”

“Proposed?”

“Yeah, marriage. A whole life together, white picket fences . . . the whole enchilada. I turned him down right and proper. We broke up, he slept with Liz; Liz and Michael broke up, I slept with Michael. So your daughter’s a big slut. But then again, you already knew that.”

“Maria . . .”

“No, and that’s not even the best part. So the morning after we fuck, he jet-sets to L.A. for this internship on a porn movie. Oh, yeah, you gotta include the porn part. Otherwise the story just doesn’t have the same punch.”

“Maria . . .”

“So I chase after him like a desperate girl, do a little jail-time, get there, fight with him again, fuck him again, and then . . . oh, get this: I told him I love him. Yeah, the ultimate four letter word . . . I said it. And do you know what he said back to me?” She paused for a moment, trying to make it dramatic before she finished with, “Nothing. Not one word.” She crossed her arms over her chest, hoping her mom was happy now that she knew, now that she knew what had happened.

Amy looked at her with . . . well, it almost looked like genuine sympathy. But it couldn’t be genuine. Amy DeLuca was not a genuinely sympathetic person. She was a genuinely judgmental person.

“You can smile now,” Maria told her.

“Why would I smile?” her mother asked.

“Because. Your slut daughter finally fell in love, and the person she loves forgot to love her back.”

“And you think that would make me happy?” Amy spat in disbelief.

“Why wouldn’t it?” Maria asked in response. “I know you’re just dying to give me the big fat I-told-you-so. ‘I told you Michael’s a loser, Maria. I told you you’re a loser, Maria.’”

“You’re not a loser, Maria. You’ve made some poor choices, and now you’re dealing with the consequences, but you’re not a loser. You’re my daughter and I love you.”

“Like you love a thorn in the side.”

“No, like you love a daughter. And Michael . . .” Amy sighed heavily and said, “Oh, goodness, Maria, you can’t really believe he doesn’t love you, too. Just because he didn’t say it.”

“Maybe some guys just aren’t capable of it,” Maria pondered.

“The way he looks at you, the way he talks to you, acts around you . . .” Amy continued on. “If he doesn’t love you, then no man in this world loves any woman.”

Maria was taken aback by that claim. What shocked her the most was the fact that her mother was saying something . . . comforting.

“I used to hate him for the way he felt about you,” Amy admitted, “because I wanted better for you. Michael Guerin is never going to be the world’s finest person by any means, and I wanted you to be with someone like . . . well, like Max. But when I saw you with Max, it was so obvious that the two of you didn’t work. Not romantically, at least. And I knew—I knew you’d end up with Michael.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not ending up with Michael,” Maria pointed out. “We’re just ending.”

“Well, with that kind of attitude, sure,” Amy said. “Maria, just because he didn’t say ‘I love you, too’ . . . that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you. It just means that he was shell-shocked and a man and . . . well, Michael.”

“You don’t know him like I do, Mom. He’s not the type to hold back. If he felt it, he would’ve said it. But he didn’t. So stop trying to make me feel better. I’m not gonna feel better.”

Amy sighed heavily and gazed at her. “Oh, honey . . .” She reached her hand out and stroked Maria’s hair, much to Maria’s surprise. At first, Maria wanted to jerk away from her mother’s touch, but she didn’t. She just sat there and let her mother be there for her, because strangely, it wasn’t horrible. Maybe things with Michael were looking pretty dismal, but at least her mom appeared to really, truly be making some changes. Small miracles. Anything helped.

“As horrible as you feel,” Amy said, still stroking her hair soothingly, “I’m sure Michael feels just as bad.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Woo, this is the best night of my life!” Michael exclaimed, tossing his hands into the air as a half naked woman twirled around on a pole in front of him. “Yeah!” He and Timmy and a bunch and a bunch of the other guys working on the movie had gone out to a strip club after work. As though they actually needed to. As though they didn’t see naked girls 24/7 on the set of Cum-Hungry Coeds. Personally, Michael wasn’t sure what he was enjoying more, the stripper or the beer. It was probably the beer. The stripper wasn’t that good on the pole. She kept getting stuck upside down.

“Hey!” he shouted upon noticing the empty glass in his hand. “Hey, more beer! We need more beer!”

“More beer! More beer!” the guys chanted.

“Here you go,” Michael said, handing his glass to a stripper as she walked by. “More beer.”

She rolled her eyes in annoyance and shoved the glass back at him.

“Bitch,” he grunted. “Best night. Ever. By far.” He had to start believing that eventually.

Timmy cleared his throat and leaned in much like Alex would have had he been there. “Hey, Mike?”

But Alex never would have called him Mike.

“Don’t you think it’s about time you, you know, cut yourself off?” Timmy suggested. “You’ve had a lot to drink.”

“Yeah,” Michael said, setting his glass on its side so he could spin it around. “I’m havin’ a great time.”

“Well, that’s just it.” Timmy bit his bottom lip contemplatively before asserting, “I’m not so sure you are.”

“No, I am,” Michael insisted. “Strippers are the best. And so is beer. I want more of ‘em both. More strippers! More beer!”

“More strippers! More beer!” his fellow drunk workmates echoed in unison.

“I called a cab,” Timmy informed him. “It’s coming to take you home.”

Michael wrinkled his forehead in confusion and asked, “Cabs drive all the way to New Mexico?” Because that was where home was.

“Well, your hotel room,” Timmy said. “Are you okay with that?”

Instead of answering right away, Michael took his time, glanced up on stage at the less than adequate stripper. When he saw her blonde hair waving around, he couldn’t help but think of Maria. She was nothing like the stripper. She was prettier and moved more effectively and . . . well, she was just better. But now he was thinking about her, and suddenly the ‘best night of his life’ sucked.

“Yeah,” he replied finally. “Yeah, I’m okay with that. Last time I was drunk, I-I hit a mailbox.”

“Nice job,” Timmy remarked.

“Yeah, really.”

“Alright, well, let me help you out of here,” Timmy offered.

“No, I’m fine,” Michael said, rising unsteadily to his feet. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He wasn’t looking forward to the hangover he’d have while going to fetch Cameron’s damn coffee.

“You sure you don’t need help?” Timmy asked.

“Yeah,” Michael insisted as he stumbled toward the exit. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

By the time he’d made it outside, he felt as though he’d been walking for an hour. Or a mile or something. He felt out of it, and that was the bottom line. Once he got back to his room, he was going to fall down on his bed and sleep. Hopefully he wouldn’t dream. He couldn’t very well get any rest with visions of Maria floating through his head.

He climbed into the only cab that was parked out front, figuring it was the one Timmy had called for him. He slumped in the back seat and groaned. This wild night with the guys hadn’t been the best idea. He knew that.

“Where you goin’?” the cab driver asked.

“Where?” Michael asked, suddenly drawing a blank. “Uh . . . oh, fuck.” He rubbed his forehead, trying to ease the tension gathered there. “Uh . . . Holiday Inn.”

“Which one?”

“I don’t know. That one.”

The cab driver gave him an impatient look.

“It’s . . . around here somewhere,” Michael said. “It’s that one, by the gas station, down some highway. Or something.”

“Oh, okay, I think I know which one you’re talking about,” the driver said, nodding. “I’ll get you back there.” He turned on the meter and pulled out onto the street.

Michael sighed, rested his head back against the seat, and closed his eyes. He didn’t particularly care to see the meter creeping upward, so he figured he’d try to snooze a little in the car. Why not? Contrary to popular belief, there wasn’t that much to see in L.A. Not in this part of L.A., anyway. He was pretty much living in a low-rent district. The Holiday Inn was the nicest building around.

He was just starting to nod off when his cell phone rang. “Fuckin’ Christ,” he swore, reaching into his pocket to take it out. He flipped it open and spat, “What?”

After a long pause, a familiar voice—not Maria—said, “Michael?”

He frowned, trying to pinpoint the voice. It didn’t take long. He knew the girl literally intimately. “Liz.”

“Hi,” she said.

All he could do was grunt. Hi? She was calling and saying hi? The last time they’d spoken face to face—hell, the last time they’d spoken at all—he’d basically let her know how much he didn’t care to ever hear from her again. Or at least he thought that was what he’d done. Apparently she hadn’t gotten the message. Great. She was a Stage 5 clinger. He should have known she would be.

“What do you want?” he asked gruffly.

“To talk to you,” she explained.

“Max not keepin’ you satisfied? You want some phone sex?” he asked. “‘Cause you’re not gettin’ any.”

“Ew. No,” she said. “And Max and I aren’t . . .” She trailed off.

Yeah, right, he thought. If she and good old Maxwell were living in such close quarters and not screwing each other wild, then they just weren’t human. Of course, he and Maria had lived together for four years without doing anything . . .

“I’m worried about Maria,” Liz blurted.

This caught Michael’s attention. “Is she okay?” he asked.

“Not really. I mean, she says she is, but she’s so clearly messed up, Michael. Way to go.”

“Oh, great,” he groaned. “So I get all the blame, huh? That’s why you called, to kick me while I’m down?”

“I’m just saying . . .”

“I don’t need a fuckin’ lecture from you of all people, Liz.”

“Michael, I just think maybe you should give her a call.”

“You have no idea what’s been going on.”

“I know you guys have slept together. I know you care about her. What I don’t know is why you two aren’t together right now.”

Wow, he thought. Never thought I’d hear Liz say something like that. It was weird to say the least, to hear his ex-girlfriend encouraging him to work things out with the very girl she’d envied for months. He was about to ask her more about how Maria was doing when he felt a sharp pain in his head. “Uh,” he groaned, pressing his fingers against his forehead.

“What is it?” Liz asked.

“I think I’m sobering up already,” he muttered. “Dammit.”

“You’re drinking?” Liz exclaimed in what sounded like disbelief.

“Does that really surprise you?” He groaned again as the pain continued. “Oh, man, this sucks. Everything sucks.”

“Michael . . .”

“I’m gonna let you go,” he said, not really wanting to hear any more of what she had to say to him. “Bye, Liz.”

“Wait--”

He didn’t wait. He closed his phone and stuck it back in his pocket. He really just needed to get back to his room, lie down, and stop thinking about things. His brain needed a rest. It had been overworked as of late, and it wasn’t used to it.

“Girl troubles?” the cab driver asked.

“Uh-huh.” He was hoping his short answer would indicate that he wasn’t interested in striking up a conversation, but apparently the driver didn’t get the point.

“You gotta be half bartender/half therapist on this job,” he said.

Michael didn’t get it. “What?”

“Drivin’ a cab. You get the drunks, not unlike you, and you hear about their problems. Bartender/therapist.”

“That’s great.”

“You should’ve seen this girl the other night. Poor thing wasn’t having any luck. Came to L.A. lookin’ for her man, said he left her.”

“Huh,” Michael said. “Is that so?”

“So it is. Said she got jailed, got mugged, got furious, mostly. But I could tell how much she wanted to find him. We drove around for a long time. She didn’t even know where he was staying. But eventually she found him. I don't know why she didn't just call him. Anyway, I hope they worked it out.”

I wonder if Maria was that girl, Michael thought to himself. It seemed unlikely.

“She was such a pretty girl,” the driver went on. “Fiery little thing, too.”

Oh, it was Maria, he decided.

“I’m Ernie, by the way,” the driver introduced himself.

“I’m Michael.”

“Michael . . .” Ernie glanced at him in the rear-view mirror and said, “That’s weird. The girl I hauled around . . . she was lookin’ for a guy named Michael.”

“Was that girl named Maria?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Ernie smiled. “Hey, small world, huh?” He laughed as he turned the corner and said, “That’s just kinda creepy, isn’t it?”

“Kinda,” Michael agreed as he saw his hotel come into sight.

“Well, so, did you two work it out?” Ernie asked. “I mean, whatever the problem was . . . you fixed it, right?”

Wrong, Michael thought. Maybe that’s what smart people would have done, but he and Maria had just made everything ten times worse. “That’s my hotel, right up there,” he said in order to avoid answering the question.

“Oh,” Ernie said, his tone indicating that, being half bartender/half therapist, he understood the unspoken answer. “Alright.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria sat on the couch with her mother that evening, watching an episode of I Love Lucy. It wasn’t her favorite TV show by any means, but she didn’t hate it, either. Plus, it was the only show she and her mom could agree on. It felt strange but not horrible to be hanging out with her mom like that. Still, she missed the y-chromosomes of the house. It wasn’t the same there without Michael, Max, and Kyle.

“I’m thinking about dying my hair brown,” she blurted since she wasn’t really watching the show.

“Really? I like the blonde,” she said. “I’m used to the blonde. You’ve always been a blonde.”

“Yeah.”

“But brown would be nice, too.”

Maria sighed. “No, I’d never really do it. Gentlemen prefer blondes, you know. And so do non-gentleman.”

“Do they?”

“Oh, yeah. There’s been studies. Plus, I know from my own personal experience.” She sighed again. “I guess blondes aren’t the long-haul girls, though. Or maybe they are. Because Isabel’s in it for the long haul with Alex, and she’s a blonde. And then Tess and Kyle . . . they’ll be walking down the aisle by the end of the year. And she’s blonde, too.”

“She’s very blonde,” Amy agreed.

“So I guess it’s just me who’s not the long-haul girl, and hair color doesn’t play a factor,” she finished up, well aware that she was thinking out loud. “No gentleman. No non-gentleman. Just nobody.”

“Maria, I know it feels like it won’t get better,” Amy said, “but--”

“What?” she cut in. “It will? I’ll move on? I’ll find somebody else? I’ll forget about Michael?” She grunted. “Not likely. Michael may be a jackass, but . . . he’s Michael. Everyone else is second best for me.”

“Don’t rule out the possibility,” Amy cautioned. “Mr. Right could come along any minute.”

“But Michael’s Mr. Right. In a completely wrong sort of way, he’s Mr. Right. So, yeah, I’m ruling out the possibility of anyone else.”

“Suit yourself.”

“And you know, part of me thinks I should just go back to sleeping with random guys to get my rocks off, but . . . I don’t wanna do that, either.”

“Good.”

“So I’m screwed, basically. Not literally, of course, because that would require an actual man. No, I’m metaphorically screwed. Can’t have Mr. Right. Can’t have anyone else. I guess it’s just me and my vibrator from now on.” She cringed when she said that last part and remembered who she was talking to. “Too graphic?”

“Oh, I can relate,” her mother assured her. “My vibrator’s gotten me through some lonely nights.”

Maria’s eyes widened in shock. “You have a vibrator?”

“Well, of course,” Amy said. “I’m not breaking any of the Ten Commandments when I use it.”

Maria actually smiled and laughed a little. It was nice to hear her mom tell a joke, because it was something very new and very different for her. “Well, FYI, that was too graphic,” she informed her.

“Oh, okay.”

“Okay.” Maria fell silent and returned her gaze to the television again, still not really watching the show. She never thought she would like having her mom around, but right now, it was a blessing in disguise. As unbearable as it was not having Michael in that house, having her mom around, mending some fences that once seemed un-mendable . . . that made Michael’s absence just a little more bearable. But she still would have given anything to have him back.

“Do you want to know something?” Amy asked suddenly.

Maria shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

Amy smiled and said, “When I told your dad I loved him, he didn’t say it back. In fact, it took him a few more years to say it. Some men are just like that.”

“That really isn’t comforting,” Maria informed her.

“Well, better late than never is what I’m getting at.”

“No, I mean . . . it’s not comforting that you’re likening me and Michael to you and dad. You and dad were a train wreck. That’s why you divorced.”

“But we had some good times together.”

“Before the bad times.”

Amy resigned. “Okay, you got me. We didn’t work. Our fights were just fights. But when you and Michael fight, it’s almost as if you’re showing your affection for each other.”

“Kissing is also a way of showing affection. Why can’t we just do that?” Maria wondered aloud. “No, I know the fighting adds passion, but . . . is there such a thing as too much passion?”

“No,” Amy said confidently. “And that’s where your father and I faltered. We didn’t have enough passion. So that’s why we had the fight. The fight to end all fights.”

“You mean the fight about him sleeping with his secretary? And her sister.”

“You were just a little girl. I didn’t know you knew the reasons. I didn’t know you even knew what sex was.”

“Oh, please,” Maria scoffed. “I learned about sex in preschool. All you have to do is ask the right questions. You know, ‘Why do boys have that dangly little thing?’ ‘Why’s Johnny always got his hand down his pants?’ Stuff like that.”

“Well, it’s nice to know you learned something.”

“Yep. So I knew what you guys were fighting about when you had the fight. Now Michael and I just had that fight, too. Secretary and sister sex not included.”

“Oh, you didn’t have that fight,” Amy said. “I doubt you ever will. I told you, you two will end up together one way or another. I always knew that. Max probably always knew it, too. Now you just have to know it."

Maria wondered . . . she wondered if it was possible. Could she and Michael really be together in that way and still be best friends after everything that had happened? Because she didn’t want to be with him if he wasn’t still her best friend. It seemed so impossible, but it was a really nice thought, too.

This new positive outlook thing her mom had going on was . . . well, positive. But also probably unrealistic.









TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
Roswell Fanatic
Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2004 9:32 am
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Part 123

Post by April » Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:53 am

Sara: Even though Amy isn't the answer to all of Maria's problems, she can certainly help by trying to rekindle her relationship with her daughter.
nibbles: Ernie is a cool guy, isn't he? You won't see him any more, but even he knows Michael and Maria belong together. ;)
Krista:
P.S. Would it be too much to ask for a very short Christmas fic in the future? Think of it as the best birthday present for Krista ever.
Hey, you never know! Remind me to write one or post something as a challenge and just might take it. God, you must be really eager for Christmas, because we haven't even had Halloween yet! :lol:
Alien_Friend:
At the rate Michael is living his life, it doesn't seem like he will tell Maria I love you any time soon.
It would be a really big thing for him to say. He's never said those words to anyone. He's never really even believed in love before.
starcrazed:
Michael's far too stubborn for that and if Liz's phone call had made a difference I think I would have been disappointed that that's all it took.
Yeah, Liz is trying to help in any way she can, but she doesn't have any influence on Michael, so the best thing she can do is be there for Maria. The only person who can get through to Michael is Michael himself.
Mercedes: Hey, girl! Sorry to hear the computer is still giving you problems. I know how you feel. I'm glad you liked the line you quoted. I thought it was pretty funny, too! :lol:
spacegirl23: Yeah, Maria needs all the comfort she can get, and surprisingly enough, that's what Amy is giving her right now. They've never really gotten along ever, so it's definitely a shock to both of them that they're managing to get along right now.
tequathisy:
Why does he always put Maria second to something far less important?
Really, he doesn't mean to. But like you said, he always tries to do the right thing, which ends up being the wrong thing, and when he does that, Maria gets put second. :( But in truth, she's first and foremost with him in all respects. He just needs to find a way to tell her that.
Christina:
I didn't realize Amy could be so funny. What a subtle comment that Tess is the ditziest gal around. (But a fun kind of ditzy, not a stupid kind of ditzy.)
:lol: Yes, it's true, even Amy DeLuca can crack a joke. I'm glad you liked that line. And it's true, Tess is the ditziest girl around, but she's probably one of the smartest, nicest, funniest people in their entire group.
Ashley: Yep, everyone can change, even Amy!
simplyshiny:
they are STILL mother and daughter, and STILL have that connection...now lets hope Michael and Maria have that connection too
Don't worry, Maria and Michael could never not have a connection. ;)


Thanks, as always, for the wonderful feedback, everyone!

Now, this is very cruel of me, but I'm not going to be able to update again until . . . hmm, it'll probably be late Tuesday my time, early Wednesday for some of you. My university is going on Fall Break, which I'm very excited for, but of course that means I will be home with no Internet. But I'll update as soon as I get back!










Part 123








Max wasn’t expecting a knock on the door that day—he and Liz didn’t get many visitors. When there was a knock, he thought it might be Maria, that maybe she was feeling depressed and needed someone to talk to again; but when he opened the door and came face to face with Kyle, he wasn’t surprised. Kyle was always checking up on all his friends.

“Kyle, hi.”

“What’s up, Evans?”

“Vacuuming.”

“That’s riveting stuff,” Kyle joked. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, sure.” Max opened the door wider and allowed his friend to step inside.

“Wow,” Kyle remarked. “Pretty swanky place you got here, Max. Do I need to take off my shoes? Is this the kind of apartment where you take off your shoes?”

“You can keep ‘em on if you want,” Max told him. “So how’s it goin’?”

“Good,” Kyle said, taking a seat on the couch. “Hey, this is comfy, man.”

“Thanks.” Max sat down beside him.

“Tess and I just moved into our new place, you know,” Kyle said. “We’re officially neighboring you now.”

“Cool. You like the place?”

“Yeah, it feels like home. We keep meaning to unpack all our shit, but we always get sidetracked having sex, you know?” He laughed.

Max just smiled and shook his head. The day Kyle and Tess didn’t get sidetracked having sex was the day hell froze over.

“I’m surprised you and Liz got all your stuff unpacked, you know?” Kyle said, grinning.

Max looked at his friend in confusion. He kept saying ‘you know’ as if Max really did know, but . . . he didn’t. He wanted to change the subject, so he went ahead and asked, “So how’s Maria?”

“Uh, I’m not sure, really,” Kyle admitted. “I haven’t seen her since the night she got home. Have you?”

“No. I mean, I talked to her that night on the phone, but . . . I haven’t seen her, no. You think she’s alright?”

Kyle shrugged. “Hard to tell. Probably not. Tess is gonna go over there and invite her to dinner tonight, though, so she’ll give us the full report. And that’s part of why I came over here, to invite you and Liz out to dinner, too. It’s gonna be fancy. Chinese food, man.”

“Real fancy,” Max agreed sarcastically. “Well, yeah, sure, I think I can go.”

“Around 8:00?”

“Yeah, I’ll see if Liz can go, too. Any special occasion?”

“Just tryin’ to cheer Maria up,” Kyle replied. “Plus, I’m gonna pop the question to Tess, so . . .”

Max’s eyes bulged. “What, you’re-you’re gonna ask her to marry you?”

“No, no, the other question. The one where I ask her if she wants to get two pet gerbils and raise them together.” He laughed. “The marriage question, yeah. We’re ready for it.”

“Well, you seem really calm,” Max remarked. “When I asked Maria . . . well, I probably knew it wasn’t gonna work out. I had Amazon Rivers flowing under my armpits. That’s how nervous I was.”

“Sorry about that, man.”

“It’s okay.” He really didn’t want or need any sympathy any more. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t obsessing over Maria. He was really getting over his romantic feelings for her and hoping to rekindle the friendship.

“Yeah, so anyway, that’s why I came by. Dinner tonight, 8:00. We can meet at the house. You know, our old house.”

“Sounds good,” Max said. “8:00.”

Liz came out of the bedroom suddenly and asked, “What happens at 8:00?”

When Max glanced up at her, he couldn’t help but notice what she was wearing. She wore t-shirts to bed a lot, long enough to cover up every girly part of her, but still . . . she looked really great. He wondered why he had never viewed Liz in this sexy light until lately.

“A bunch of us are going out to dinner,” Kyle explained. “Me and Tess, Isabel and Alex, now Max. Hopefully Maria’s gonna come, too.”

“Oh,” Liz said. “Yeah, that would be nice for her.”

“And hopefully you’ll come, too,” Kyle added.

“Me?” She seemed surprised. “Um . . . I don’t know, I’m not really part of the group, am I? I mean, I realize it’s the same group of us who went on spring break together, but . . . I know the only reason why you guys were friends with me was ‘cause I was dating Michael. You don’t have to feel obligated to include me.”

“Oh, Liz, I don’t feel obligated,” Kyle assured her. “Look, if you wanna come, we’re gonna meet up at 8:00 tonight.”

“8:00,” Liz echoed. “Well, I get off work at 5:00, so . . . that’d be nice. Thanks for the invite, Kyle.” She smiled at him, then turned to address Max. “Do we have a flyswatter? There’s something crawling in the bedroom, and it’s kind of . . . fuzzy.”

“Um, you could check in the closet,” he said. “Otherwise I’ll come take care of it.”

“Okay, thanks.” She walked over to the closet, opened it up, and squealed in delight when she found a flyswatter. “Yea,” she chirped. “Time to kill.”

Max laughed and watched as she skipped off into the bedroom. Liz had a sweetness about her that had been absent within recent months. She was much better and more enjoyable to be around when she wasn’t pretending to be someone else.

“Wow,” Kyle said. “Who knew Liz Parker had junk in the trunk, hey?”

“Junk?” Max echoed. He knew what Kyle was talking about, but spoke questioningly anyway.

“Well, the girl’s got a body on her. I didn’t know that until now. I mean, sure, she’s wearing a huge t-shirt, but . . . that kind of attire’s sexy. Way to go, man.”

“Way to go? You think I’m . . . you think Liz and I are . . .” He kept trailing off.

“Oh, and you’re gonna tell me you’re not? You live with the girl, she walks around the house half naked, obviously has the hots for you, and you aren’t gettin’ any?” Kyle grunted. “Yeah, right.”

“Yeah, that is right,” Max insisted. “Liz and I are . . . we’re just friends.”

“Oh, that was convincing.”

“We are. Sure we had that slight case of nudity that one time, but . . . that was then, and . . . this is now, and . . . now we’re just friends.” He was well aware how flustered and unconvincing he sounded.

“Right,” Kyle said, chuckling knowingly. “And Tess and I are just friends, too.” He slugged Max in the shoulder and said, “Come on, Evans, admit it. You’re gettin’ laid.”

“No, there’s no laying.”

“Then you’re wishing you were gettin’ laid. Impure thoughts, my man. You’re havin’ impure thoughts.”

Max immediately denied that claim. “No.” He glanced in the bedroom and saw Liz swatting at the fuzzy bug on her wall. She was standing up on her tiptoes to reach it, and her t-shirt was hiked up, revealing most of her smooth legs . . . “Not all the time,” he added quietly.

Kyle laughed.

“And they’re not impure,” he insisted. “They’re just . . . well, they’re not exactly, pure, but that doesn’t mean--”

“Oh, come on, own your impure thoughts, Max,” Kyle interrupted. “Be proud of ‘em. It’s what differentiates men from women.”

Max sighed and glanced in at Liz again. Apparently the bug had dropped to the floor now, because she was bending down to swat at it. His impure thoughts began to get a little more impure as he imagined some of the things they could do in that position. He’d done them with Maria, but somehow he suspected he would feel more with Liz . . .

“No,” he said decidedly, shaking his head, trying to shake the thoughts away. “No, I’m not gonna risk the friendship I have going with Liz. It’s too good.”

“Wouldn’t it be worth it if it worked out?” Kyle pointed out.

“Wouldn’t it be horrible if it didn’t?” Max asked in response. “Dating a friend didn’t work out so well with Maria. Would dating Liz be any different?”

“Well, yeah,” Kyle answered simply. “She and Maria are different people. Plus, she’s not harboring feelings for a certain Michael Guerin.”

“Well, she did date him for four months.”

“But she’s over him. And you’re over Maria, right?”

“Well . . . yeah, actually, I am,” Max admitted, surprised by that. It hadn’t taken as long to recover from the heartbreak she’d caused him as he’d thought it would. Having Liz in his life had helped in that regard.

“So you and Liz are coming out to dinner with us tonight . . . make it official. Make it a date,” Kyle suggested.

A date, Max considered, glancing into the bedroom once more. Liz was standing up on the bed now, peering down at the floor. The fuzzy thing was probably running around, and she was scared of it. She looked adorable, and he knew that he definitely liked her. A lot.

Maybe a date wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Every time there was a knock on the door, Maria got her hopes up and stupidly thought it was Michael. But the first time there was a knock, it was only a Jehovah’s Witness. And the second knock was a door-to-door salesman. And the third knock was Tess.

“So,” Tess said the moment Maria opened the door, “I heard it on good authority from Isabel, who heard it on good authority from Max, who heard it on good authority from Liz that, not only is your mom in town, but she’s also staying here in your house. Is that true?"

“Shocking, isn’t it?”

Tess grunted in disbelief. “More like astonishing. Do you need me to rescue you?”

“No, actually, we’re kind of getting along right now.”

“Freaky,” Tess remarked. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah.” Maria stepped aside and let Tess into the house. It felt nice to have someone familiar there, even though it would probably be a brief visit.

“So Kyle wants to go out for dinner tonight at a Chinese restaurant. For some reason,” Tess explained as she made herself comfortable on the couch. “Alex and Isabel are coming, and Max and Liz might be there, too. You wanna come?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” Maria answered. It all sounded like Date-fest 2008. Tess and Kyle, Isabel and Alex, and Liz and Max. And then her by herself? One of those things just didn’t belong, and she knew exactly which one was the oddball.

“Oh, come on,” Tess persisted. “It’ll be fun. It’ll be like spring break, only summer. And we’ll have the whole gang together again.”

“Not the whole gang,” Maria mumbled.

“Well . . . yeah, we’ll be minus one especially screwed-up individual, but it’ll still be fun,” Tess promised.

“I don’t know,” Maria said again. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be Miss Down-in-the-Dumps.”

“Oh, no, I get it,” Tess assured her. “I you wanna be down and dumpy, go right ahead. You have every right and reason. But, if by chance you wanna lift your spirits and turn that frown upside down . . . even if it’s just for a few hours, the invitation still stands.”

Maria thought about it. Even if it was Date-fest 2008, it was better than spending another evening at home. She used to go out all the time. Of course, she usually went out with Michael, but . . . she couldn’t spend the rest of her life agonizing about Michael. Could she?

Oh, she definitely could. That was a scary thought.

“Sure,” she decided. “I’ll go.”

“Really? Oh, goodie,” Tess chirped, rising to her feet again. “It’s gonna be so fun having you there.”

“Even if I’m not my usual perky, funny, bitchy self?”

Tess gave her a look. “Maria, don’t kid yourself. You’re always bitchy.”

Maria laughed a little at that. It was funny because it was true.

“Alright, well, I’ve gotta go,” Tess said. “Some girl wants me to design edible underwear for her. I was going to, but then I decided I want me to have them.” She smiled a huge, excited smile.

“Well, then go,” Maria said. “Underwear cannot be left un-designed.”

“Alright, well, I’ll see you at 8:00,” she said as she headed for the door. “Is it okay if we all meet here?”

Maria pictured that in her mind, and it was a pretty picture. “Yeah, that’d be nice,” she said. It would almost be like old times, having the old house overflowing with people. It would almost be like old times.

“Alright, I’ll see you later,” Tess chirped as she slipped out the door. “Bye!”

“Bye.” Maria felt the feeling of isolation return as the door shut. This was good, though, this dinner tonight. Spending time with her friends was going to be good for her. It would keep her mind off of . . . well, the obvious.

“Who was that?” her mother asked when she came out of the bathroom. “Was that Tess?”

“Yeah, she, uh, invited me to hang with the gang tonight. Apparently we’re going for Chinese food.”

Amy smiled and said, “I always liked that girl.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dinner at Yin Yang’s Chinese that night was . . . okay. It was fun, but it just seemed a little off somehow. Michael wasn’t there, and his absence was enough to throw their whole group dynamic out of whack. Maria found herself sitting back and taking on the unusual role of listener in the conversation instead of instigator.

“I can’t believe I ordered the duck,” Isabel remarked randomly. “Do you think it’s gonna come with the head still attached like it did in A Christmas Story?

“Oh, no,” Alex assured her quickly. “Headless ducks are the new cool thing.”

Isabel smiled at him.

“Hey, guys, think about this for a minute,” Kyle said suddenly. “At this time tomorrow, we’ll have graduated. Well, I mean, we wise, mature seniors will have graduated.”

“Old, wrinkly seniors is more like it,” Tess teased.

“Graduation’s tomorrow?” Maria piped up quietly.

“Yeah,” Kyle said. “What, did you forget?”

“Yeah, actually, I did.”

“Oh, well, I guess it’s not the most exciting event of the year,” Kyle said. “But it’s kind of neat, isn’t it? Four years all leads up to this.”

“Point of culmination,” Max said with a nod. “Now that sounded a lot less like an orgasm when I thought it.”

“You are gonna be there, right?” Alex asked her.

“Yeah,” Maria said. “Yeah, I’ll be there. I wouldn’t make Kyle walk alone. Unlike some people.” She thought of Michael and grunted in anger. Dumb-ass.

“Are you looking forward to getting your diploma?” Liz asked her. “I know I would be.”

“Not really,” she admitted. “I mean, it’s pointless. It’s a piece of paper that tells you you’ve graduated, which you already know. Plus, you have to sit through the boring speeches.”

Max cleared his throat.

“But of course this salutatorian address is gonna be the best ever,” she quickly added.

“Oh, well, don’t be too sure,” Max said.

“It’s kind of sad, really,” Tess put in. “In less than 24 hours, you guys won’t be Santa Fe undergraduates anymore.” Everyone at the table fell silent for a moment, considering that fact, and when the mood got too blue, Tess immediately piped up cheerily. “But this is a happy table. We’re happy people. Happy, happy.”

“Joy, joy,” Isabel added, clapping her hands together.

“Yes, I’m happy to be graduating,” Alex said, smiling.

“Graduation is a happy thing,” Tess agreed. “Boring, but happy.”

“Hey, look, here comes our food,” Kyle pointed out. “That makes me very happy.”

The waitress came up to the table and laid their meals down in front of them. Isabel shrieked and buried her face in Alex’s chest when she saw her duck. “Oh, it still has a head! Oh!”

“Oh,” Alex said. “Could we possibly just, you know . . . chop?” He made a chopping motion with his hand, but Isabel was resistant to even that idea.

“No,” she said shaking her head. “I can’t eat anything now. I’m too traumatized.”

“Oh, sweetie, it’s okay.”

“I’ll take it then,” Kyle said, reaching over and seizing the plate. “Looks good.”

“Honey, you’re disgusting,” Tess remarked. “And so adorable.”

Maria noted the uses of the affectionate words ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’ between the two couples. Tess and Kyle were really in love with each other, and Isabel and Alex were so perfect together, too. And Max and Liz . . . well, maybe they weren’t together together yet, but they would be soon. Maria was jealous of each and every single one of them.

“Mmm, I love crab ran goons,” Liz said as she began to chow down on her food. “You want one, Maria? I don’t think I’m gonna be able to eat them all, and your meal doesn’t look that extravagant. No offense.”

Maria glanced down at her plate and asked, “What’s wrong with rice?”

“White rice. Plain. Seems kinda bland is all,” Liz said.

“I feel like rice,” was all Maria said.

“Oh.” Liz smiled. “Okay.”

Maria stuck her chopsticks into her rice and tried to pick some up, but it didn’t really work out. Oh, well, she thought. She wasn’t really that hungry anyway.

“Hey, who wants fortune cookies?” Kyle asked suddenly.

Tess gasped excitedly and said, “Ooh, gimme, gimme.”

“Alright, you go ahead and take this one,” he said, handing her a cookie. “The rest of you . . . uh, here you go.” He set the basket of fortune cookies down in the center of the table, and they all reached in and grabbed one. Max, Alex, and Kyle, all took one look at theirs and tossed them over their shoulders. Liz frowned and said, “Mine doesn’t even make sense. What’s yours say, Maria?”

“Branches shade the gravel road but sunlight finds the destination.” She frowned, wishing it was less ambiguous. “Is that a good thing?”

“Well, yeah, I think so,” Liz said. “I mean, sun pretty much gets a thumbs-up from everyone, except those who have skin cancer or, you know, a sun allergy.”

“There’s a sun allergy?” Maria shrugged. “Didn’t know that.”

“Mine says that three’s my lucky number,” Isabel chirped.

“Is it?” Maria asked.

“Oh, god no. When I turned three, my mom had these clowns come to my birthday party. I didn’t like them. Their balloon animals were crappy. And my great grandpa died on the third of July. And I always get my period the third week of the month. I say poo on the number three, but I still like fortune cookies.”

“At least yours makes sense,” Tess said. “Mine doesn’t even have a fortune. All it says is ‘will you marry me?’” She grunted.

Maria’s eyes widened in shock, as did the eyes of most everyone else at the table. That question didn’t register with her? The look on Kyle’s face didn’t register with her.

It took a minute, but suddenly Tess put two and two together. “Oh my god,” she said, meeting eyes with her boyfriend. “Kyle . . . did you do this?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Oh my god. So you’re . . . so you’re asking--”

“I’m asking.”

She smiled and said, “Oh, wow. I don’t even know what to say.”

“Well, just say yes,” he suggested, grinning. “You know you want to.”

“This is just so . . . I mean, expected, but at the same time unexpected because . . . fortune cookie!”

“Well, I figured I’d try something a little unorthodox. I know I risk you being outraged since I’m not down on one knee, but I’m banking on you finding it cute.”

“Cute? It’s beyond cute! It’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.” Tess just couldn’t stop gushing and beaming.

“You like it?”

“Yeah.”

“So you wanna marry me and live a happy, silly life together?”

“Yes!” She giggled and threw her arms around him, hugging him. “Oh my god, Kyle! This is the best night of my life!”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Maria stared at the two of them enviously and clapped for their engagement when the others began to clap. Tess still looked shell-shocked and absolutely elated, and Kyle seemed just as happy as he took out a ring and slipped it on her left ring finger.

“I’m a future Valenti gal!” Tess exclaimed, gazing down at the ring with awe in her eyes. “Oh my god, I love it, Kyle! It’s so beautiful. This is so perfect.”

“Nothing less for my girl.”

Maria smiled. Those two were definitely going to live a happy, silly life together. They had years and years and years ahead of them. They had a lot to look forward to, so much love and devotion.

Must be nice, she thought.

“Congratulations, you guys,” Max said.

“Yeah, congrats,” Isabel chirped. “I know that sounds a little weird coming from the ex-girlfriend, but . . . you guys are so great together. It’s about time you got a rock on your finger, Tess.”

“Oh!” Tess squealed and hugged Isabel. “Be my maid of honor?”

“Definitely!”

The girls giggled excitedly.

“Oh, I sense a Bridezilla comin’ on,” Kyle muttered under his breath.

“Shut up, Kyle!” Tess snapped. “I love you!”

“I love you, too, baby.”

Maria winced, remembering how Michael would call her baby. Or babe. He had a certain tone to his voice when he said it . . . god, she missed him.

“Kyle, I gotta hand it to you, that was pretty innovative, with the fortune cookie,” Alex commented.

“Well, I thought I’d try something more exciting than the traditional get down on one knee and pop the question thing,” he said.

Maria glanced at Max out of the corner of her eye, and he blushed. Kyle noticed it and quickly added, “But that’s also a valid proposal approach. Whoa, ‘proposal approach.’ Try saying that ten times fast.”

“Proposal approach, proposal approach, proposal--” Isabel started in. “Uh, I can’t. My tongue’s all twisty.”

“Maybe a winter wedding,” Tess said out of nowhere. “I know it’s risky what with the weather and all, but I could be, like, your little snowflake.”

Kyle shrugged. “Well, you will be dressed in white.”

“That’s right!” Tess gasped. “Oh my god, I’m finally gonna get to put some of my wedding dress designs to good use! I’m gonna make my own dress. I’m gonna make all the bridesmaids’ dresses, too. I’m gonna be a busy little beaver. Oh, I can’t wait to get started!”

“Whoa, Tess. Breathe,” Maria instructed. “I heard grooms like a girl who can breathe.”

“Oh, I’m breathing,” Tess assured her. “Just very rapidly and heavily. Getting engaged, it’s . . . it’s really a wow-moment.”

Maria smiled, supposing that if Michael ever asked her to marry him, she’d be just as breathless.

“What made you decide to propose with all of us here?” Liz asked Kyle.

“Well, I wanted all our friends to be here for the moment Tess and I decided to spend the rest of our lives together.” He smiled and put his arm around her, squeezing her shoulders gently.

Maria looked down at her bland white rice again, hoping her friend wouldn’t notice her blatant reaction to that statement. But of course Kyle noticed and amended his words. “Well, five-sixths of our friends, anyway. The vast majority.”

“Yeah,” Tess said, the tone in her voice indicating that she noticed Maria’s sadness, too. “So, Maria . . . how’s work?”

Maria sent her friend a look. She just got engaged, and now she was asking about work? Uh-uh. “Don’t you dare, Tess. This night is about you and Kyle. Now let me see the bling.”

Tess smiled and laid her hand out on the table.

“Wow,” Maria said. “That’s beautiful.” I wish it was mine. “I’m so happy for you guys.” And she was. Happy and jealous.

“Thanks,” Tess said. “Will you be a bridesmaid, too?”

“Of course.”

“Great. Liz, you wanna be a bridesmaid.”

“Um, yeah, sure, if you want me to be.”

“I do. And my sister can be a bridesmaid, and my cousin. And my best friend from elementary school, Emma . . . she can be a bridesmaid as long as she’s not prettier than me. I’m gonna have lots of bridesmaids.”

“I can tell,” Kyle said. “I’ll probably have lots of groomsmen.”

Michael, Maria thought suddenly. He can be a groomsman. I can see him at Tess and Kyle’s wedding. Of course, that would be months away, possibly even later. And what was she going to do when she actually saw Michael again, just go up to him and say ‘hey?’

“I have a small-boned cousin who can pass as a flower girl,” Tess told Kyle. “She’s thirteen, but she looks seven. Unless you have someone else in mind.”

“All I care about is the food,” Kyle said. “And professing my eternal, undying love to you, of course.”

“Aw,” Tess cooed, “of course.”

Of course, Maria thought, no one’s ever gonna profess his eternal, undying love to me. “Congratulations,” she practically whispered, fighting the nagging pangs of envy. “Really.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael got off work that night and headed straight back to his hotel room. No more nights out at the strip club. It hadn’t been fun by any means, and all he’d had to show for it was a killer 24-hour hangover. Maybe he wasn’t an intellect, but he knew enough not to do that again. At least for awhile. Hell, he didn’t even want strippers. He wanted Maria.

He took a shower and ordered pizza. Pretty much standard behavior for a bachelor. When he thought of himself as a bachelor, he momentarily contemplated going on that stupid reality TV show The Bachelor just to see where the hell he would end up. He quickly put an end to that idea. He didn’t want twenty-five lucky bachelorettes. He wanted Maria.

He took a bite of his pizza and wrinkled his nose in distaste. Some fifteen year-old kid must have concocted it, because it tasted like road kill. Plus, it was cold. He didn’t really want pizza anyway. He wanted Maria.

I wonder what she’s doing right now, he thought. Is she out with some guy? He hoped not. But then again, he kind of felt bad, like he was holding her back or something.

Maybe I should call her. The thought popped out of nowhere. It wasn’t exactly a novel idea, calling a girl on the phone, but it freaked him out somehow. Maybe she doesn’t even wanna talk to me.

He picked up his phone and started dialing her number. He actually didn’t remember it at first, because he could count on one hand the number of times he’d called her on the phone. He was so used to seeing her face to face. This would be weird . . .

Before he could dial the last number, his phone rang. The caller ID said it was Kyle. He figured it was a sign. He wasn’t supposed to call Maria.

“Hey, Valenti.”

“Hey,” Kyle said. “Been awhile since I talked to you.”

Michael shrugged, picking up another slice of cold, disgusting pizza with his free hand. “Couple of days.”

“Feels like a lot longer, though,” Kyle said. “Man, it feels weird without you here.”

It definitely felt weird being in L.A. It wasn’t home, and it never would be. “How’s Maria?” he asked.

“Not good. Apparently you’re not doing so good, either,” Kyle remarked. “I heard you got wasted last night.”

Michael shook his head. Liz had run her mouth. “It was nothin’.”

“No, by all means, if you wanna drink up, drink up. I’m just sayin’, maybe you shouldn’t do it when you’re in this frame of mind.”

“I’m fine.”

Kyle shot that claim down right away. “Like hell you are. I can hear it in your voice. You miss, Maria.”

Well, he wasn’t going to deny that. “Of course I miss her.”

“You left her, and then you let her leave you. That’s some messed up logic, man.”

“Kyle . . . it’s not that I don’t like hearing from you, but I’m kinda tired, so . . . what’s your point?”

Kyle sighed. “No point. I was just making a last ditch effort for you and Maria. The real reason I called was to tell you, uh . . . Tess and I . . . we got engaged.”

“Whoa,” was Michael’s response. “You’ve been wantin’ to do that for . . . hell, two years, right?”

“Yeah, since I met the girl. Finally got the balls to do it.”

“Well, congratulations.” He wished he could have sounded happier for them. He was happy, but nothing was going to penetrate his current pissed off mood.

“Yeah. It’s kind of a nice feeling when you finally work up the courage to do something you’ve always wanted to do.”

Michael frowned. Was that some kind of hint?

“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know,” Kyle said again. “Yeah, everyone was there, too. Max and Liz. Isabel and Alex, even. And Maria. Everyone saw it happen. We kinda wished you could’ve been there.”

Man, I wish I could’ve been there, too, Michael thought. But he couldn’t go back there now, not after the way he’d fucked up his relationship with Maria. Going back would probably cause more harm than good. Wouldn’t it?

“God-dammit,” he swore, tossing his pizza back into the box. “I’m so fuckin’ confused.”

All Kyle said was “You should be,” before he ended the call.

Michael shook his head and closed his phone. He knew he was the typical guy who just didn’t get it. For the first time in his life, he wished he were someone else.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 124

Post by April » Tue Oct 21, 2008 3:27 pm

Hey, everyone! I'm back from Fall Break! (And what an enjoyable Fall Break it was! I hardly had any homework to do, so I got to spend time with my family and got a lot of time to work on my new fic.) :) Of course, now that I'm back, what's my first order of business? To update this fic, of course!

Thanks for the awesome feedback:

Krista (Oh my god, I would never leave you guys with just a summary! :lol: )
starcrazed
killjoy
Sara
Alien_Friend
nibbles
spacegirl23
Christina
tequathisy
simplyshiny
art_junkie (patience is definitely a virtue!)
singerchic4
Ashley









Part 124








Maria sat in her room that night with the light off. She was determined to sleep in her own bed again—she had spent the last couple of nights on the couch. She’d changed the sheets on her bed, of course, because . . . but it didn’t help. She still remembered exactly what it felt like to be in that bed with Michael. It had been so amazing, not just because he had sex skills and she had sex skills and everything, but because they had a connection together, a connection that they couldn’t possibly have with anyone else. Ever.

God, she thought. I’ve never felt so lost.

“Knock, knock.”

She looked up, expecting to find her mother standing in the doorway, but it was Liz instead. “Hey,” her once-again friend said. “Your mom let me in. She actually smiled at me.”

“She’s better these days,” Maria acknowledged. “I hope it lasts.”

“I think it will,” Liz said confidently. “Can I come in?”

Maria shrugged, not seeing why she would want to. “Sure.”

“Okay.” Liz came into the room and gently shut the door. “That was really something tonight, huh? Kyle and Tess?”

Maria nodded. “Really something.”

Liz sat down on the foot of the bed and said, “You did a really good job acting happy for them tonight.”

“Acting?” she echoed. “Who’s acting? I am happy for them, Liz. They’re two of my best friends and they deserve to spend forever together. They love each other.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean . . . ‘acting’ was the wrong word. I guess what I’m saying is . . . I understand that, in a way, it hurt to watch that. I mean, I know I was sitting there wondering if anyone’s ever gonna propose to me.”

“Liz, you’re nineteen.”

“I know. But I’ve had exactly one boyfriend, and we had a bad breakup. It doesn’t exactly leave a whole lot of hope for the future.”

“Oh, please, you don’t have to worry about anything,” Maria assured her. “I give it five years maximum and you-know-who’s down on one knee asking you for your hand in marriage.”

“You-know . . . who?”

“Max.”

Liz’s eyes bulged. “What?”

“Well, you like him, don’t you?”

“What? No, I . . . I mean, sure there was that little incident in the locker room, but . . . that’s in the past. And Max and I are . . . we’re just friends now. Just friends. Just really good friends.”

Maria gave her a knowing look. “Don’t lie to me, chica. I know what it’s like to be just friends with Max. You guys aren’t just friends. There’s vibes. You guys are a lot alike. You like science. It’s like you’re a match made in a Petri dish or something.”

Liz smiled. “You think?”

“Of course. You know, they say opposites attract, but that’s such a lie. Similarities attract. Trust me.”

Liz kept smiling, and her face became a little red. “Well, he does have some of those Prince Charming qualities, doesn’t he?”

“He does.”

“I mean, he’s nice and he’s smart and he’s good-looking and he’s sweet. I think I let Michael overshadow him at first, but now . . .” She sighed wistfully, then stopped her oohing and ahhing and said, “You know, it’s strange having this conversation with you of all people.”

“Tell me about it.”

Liz sighed and again and said, “I don’t know. Max is a great guy and I definitely do feel something strong for him, but I don’t want to obsess over him like I did with Michael. If anything is to ever happen, I pretty much want it to be the exact opposite of what I had with Michael. Not that there’s anything wrong with Michael.”

“Oh my god, he’s so wrong.”

“No, he just . . . he kind of marches to the beat of his own drum . . . or he makes his own drums or hires his own drummers or something. And that’s not what I’m looking for. But it’s perfect for you.”

“Hmm.”

“And actually, that’s why I came by,” Liz confessed. “I know you don’t wanna talk about Michael, about what’s happened between you and him, but Maria . . . I’m worried about you. You’re obviously hurting, and it’s not good for you to keep all your feelings bottled up like this.”

“Liz. I’ve been keeping my feelings bottled up all my life.”

“And they exploded with Michael, didn’t they? You guys had a fight, and you think you’re never gonna get past it. But you will. I mean, you guys are--”

“What?” Maria cut in. “Soul mates? We’re not some epic love story.”

“Well, you’re more like a modern love story,” Liz admitted. “But you are soul mates.”

Maria rolled her eyes.

“I know you don’t believe in that, but I do. I mean, look at Tess and Kyle. They’re your proof. They’re soul mates.”

“Yeah, and I’m never gonna have that,” Maria said. “I was insanely jealous tonight, okay? Not just a little bit, but like insanely. I mean, Tess and Kyle have this adorable love story. They meet, they fall in love, they make each other laugh, they get engaged. And sure, they had a little problem with Isabel there along the way, but they all got over it. And now they’re fine. Isabel’s with Alex and Tess is still with Kyle, and even you’re living with Max, and where am I? Oh, I’m sitting right here obsessing about what it felt like to make love to Michael in this bed.”

Liz hung her head and acknowledged, “It does feel pretty good. I mean, I-I know I don’t know what it feels like when you’re with him, but if it’s anything like what I felt that night I was with Max . . . I can’t blame you for obsessing.”

“I just wish I wasn’t,” she said. “I’m not saying I want to have a relationship that’s the exact replica of Tess and Kyle’s. I mean, breast implants, no thanks, and a threesome? Let’s not and say we did, you know? But I just . . . I want things to be simple like it is for them. They just have it so easy.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Liz said. “We probably don’t see it, but behind the scenes, I’m guessing they have their issues, too. And even Izzy and Alex have probably butted heads a few times.”

“And you and Max?”

Liz shrugged. “Well, we’re not dating, but . . . just the other day, we kind of argued on whether we wanted to buy new curtains or not.”

Maria laughed a little. “Sounds dire.”

“Well . . .”

“Michael and I destroyed an eight-year friendship. It’s pretty hardcore.”

“But I bet it could be fixed really easily,” Liz claimed. “I think you’d be surprised.”

“Optimism. I remember that.”

“Sometimes it works.”

Maria sighed. “I don’t know. I hate being the Debbie Downer of the group, but I just . . . I can’t help feeling lonely and sorry for myself.”

“Well, that’s okay.”

“It’s just . . . I see that ring on Tess’s finger, and I’m just like you; I wonder if anyone’s ever gonna put a ring on my finger. And that’s, like, something I never even thought I wanted, to get engaged, to get married. But now I can picture it. I can’t picture the wedding party or the guests or even what I’m wearing. But I can always picture the person next to me. And it’s always Michael. And he’s always fucking up his vows, making me laugh, kissing me before the minister actually says he can kiss me. I mean, is that a completely unrealistic image?”

“Sounds pretty realistic to me.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Why? Because Michael isn’t the marrying type?”

“Because I’m here and he’s in L.A.”

Liz grunted. “Big deal. My parents are in Nebraska. I’m still close to them.”

“But this is different.”

“I guess . . .”

“And then you know what else I’ve been thinking? In a couple of years, Tess and Kyle will probably be making babies. Like lots of babies. Tess is gonna have a big belly to match her big breasts. And I’m jealous of that, too.”

“The big belly?”

“The fact that it’s gonna be a baby-filled big belly.” She sighed dramatically and ran one hand through her hair. “I mean, hello, I am not maternal. I had a pregnancy scare with Max, remember? It totally freaked me out. But now I’m starting to think that, a few years down the road, it might not be so bad to be a mom, raise some annoying little brats. But they have to be little brats who look like their father.”

“Like Michael?” Liz guessed.

“Well, I don’t want ‘em to look like anyone else.”

Liz smiled. “You’re so in love with him.”

“And he’s so not in love with me.”

“Of course he is,” Liz said. “But I realize, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that. You won’t believe it until you hear him say it.”

“Something he’ll never do.”

“Hmm, pessimism. I remember that,” Liz grinned, mocking her earlier remark about optimism. “Look, Maria, you might not like this idea, but I’m gonna suggest it anyway. If you’re having trouble dealing with all these thoughts and emotions and stressors, maybe you should go see a therapist.”

No,” Maria decided immediately and emphatically. “I don’t need a stranger telling me how to figure out my life. I’ll just figure it out myself.”

“Are you sure? I could go with you.”

“No, I’m sure.”

Liz sighed. “Well . . . think it over.”

“I have.” She hated that idea. It wasn’t going to happen.

“Well, in that case, you know you can come talk to me, to all your friends. We’re all here for you if you need us.”

“I know. Thanks.”

“And now apparently your mom’s here for you, too.”

“Everyone’s so helpful.” It was nice (if not a little suffocating) to have them all worrying about her; but really, the only person that she wanted to be there for her was the only person who wasn’t.

“Well, I should probably go,” Liz said, rising to her feet. “Max and I were planning a western movie night, so . . .” She smiled hopefully.

“Ride it, cowgirl.”

“What? No, there’s not gonna be any riding.” She blushed. “At least, I don’t think there is.”

Maria smiled and said, “Go on. I’m fine here.”

“Are you sure? ‘Cause I can stay.”

“No. I mean, it was good for you to stop by, but . . . I kinda wanna be alone right now.”

“Got it,” Liz said. “I guess I’ll see you at graduation tomorrow.”

Maria took in a deep breath. The thought of ending college on such a low note was nerve-wracking. “See you.”

Liz smiled at her once more and started for the door.

“Liz, wait,” Maria said, wanting to say one more thing.

Liz spun around.

“I just wanted to say that . . . well, I’m just happy that we’re friends again. I didn’t think it could happen, but . . . it turns out you’re a good friend for me after all.”

“I could say the same to you,” Liz pointed out. “I guess people can change, you know?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“No. No way. It’s not possible. They can’t change,” one of Michael’s fellow interns, Dan, claimed on set that day. “Once a porn star, always a porn star.”

Michael shook his head, not believing it. They’d been arguing—not working—for the past half an hour about whether porn girls ever truly quit the biz. “No, you can’t say that. What happens when these girls get to be fifty, sixty? You really think they’re still gonna be baring all for the camera then?”

“Yes! Grandma Gangbang. Ever heard of that?”

“What? No, they don’t get real grandmas to be in those things. They get the young, wrinkly porn stars who tan too much, throw a little old lady wig on ‘em, and make ‘em wear some glasses. That’s Grandma Gangbang.”

“No, it’s the real deal. Trust me, okay? I interned on one of those movies last fall. It scarred me for life.”

“Oh, man, that’s disgusting.”

“You have no idea.” Dan shook his head vigorously as if shaking away the memories. “Things that make you go blugh, you know? Needless to say, I’m happy to be back on a set where the hot young ones roam.”

“You really like it here?”

“Hell, yeah, I like it here. What’s not to like?”

“Well, the director, for starters.”

“Yeah, but the guy’s a genius. You know why it’s gonna take us all summer to get this movie put together? Because it’s gonna be better than half the so-called blockbusters you can see in a theater. Is it just me, or have movies been extremely disappointing since the new millennium started?”

“No, I’m with you on that, Dan. Movies these days suck,” Michael agreed. “But I still don’t know why you think this is some kind of heaven on earth.”

“‘Cause it is. Hot naked chicks . . .”

“With syphilis.”

Dan rolled his eyes. “Not all of ‘em. And just wait ‘til we start filming the lesbian scenes. You’ll shoot your load more than you ever thought you could.”

“I do enjoy lesbians,” Michael admitted.

“I mean, you’re crazy not to want to direct porn someday, man. It’s a gold mine. And I’m not just talkin’ about over the counter sales. Internet sales . . . that’s where you get rich.”

“Yeah, but still . . .”

“Not to mention the external benefits. You know how all these girls got this job in the first place? They gave Cameron head in the backseat of his car. It was their audition. Dude!”

“Dude, that just means he can’t get head from anyone else.”

“Sure he can. He’s practically God.”

Michael grunted and shook his head. It was strange how two people could have such different opinions of the same guy.

“And these girls are the real deal, too. Daring. Not afraid to take it up the ass. You know any girls like that back home?”

“Yeah, lots of ‘em.”

“Well . . . whatever. My point is, porn is it, man. It’s everywhere; it’s everything. You should consider yourself lucky to be here.”

“Yeah, I’m just thanking my lucky stars right now,” Michael muttered sarcastically. “It’s just a starting out point for me. I’m gonna move on to bigger and better things eventually.”

“Yeah, that’s what everyone says. Most of those people either end up back at porn or at Taco Barn. Take your pick.”

Taco Barn? Didn’t sound great. But he didn’t want to be stuck doing porn, either. Maybe it was a gold mine like Dan said, but it wasn’t for him.

He was thankful when his cell phone rang, happy to have an alleviation from this not so great conversation with Dan. He stood up, walked away from the sex scene that was in progress, and answered it. “Hello?”

“Hey, Michael, it’s me.”

“Alex?”

“Yeah. Hey, you still remember my voice. I was wondering if you would.”

“I’ve only been gone a few days. Why does everyone make it seem like I’ve been gone for months?”

“Because that’s what it feels like,” Alex told him. “Look . . . okay, I know we probably should’ve discussed this before you left, but . . . I have an idea.”

“Oh, great, here we go.”

“What? I have good ideas. This one’s no different.”

“Yeah, well, talk fast. My boss wants me to go get him lunch in five minutes.”

“Uh, okay, uh . . . okay. Here’s what I’m proposing: you and I both wanna be directors, right? You’re currently interning; I’m heading in for a job interview at Radioshack tomorrow. We’re both doing things we don’t wanna do. So I’m thinking . . . why? If we wanna be directors, we should just be directors, you know? We should make movies. We should sell movies.”

“Alex, what’re you saying?”

“I’m saying . . . well, I’m trying to say that it’s not easy. It’s a hard industry; we both know that. But say we take a gamble, we take a venture . . . together.”

“Is this a gay thing?”

“No, would you listen to me? I’m saying that we could start up our own production company. Sure, we’d have to start really small, but if we make some quality films, advertise like crazy, target the college-aged people with our sales, we could actually make something happen, you know what I mean? I mean, we’ll probably never make it to Academy Award status, but who cares? We’ll be doing something we love and we’ll be doing it our own way. No boss to report to, no crappy paid-by-the-hour wages. We could really make a go of it, Michael. We could work this together and end up being successful.”

Michael took a minute to process that idea. Independent filmmaking had been a consideration for a long time, back when things had still been good with Maria. But now with the internship and the disaster that was him and Maria . . . “I don’t know, Whitman.”

“Well, think it over, okay? I know it’s a risky idea and it sounds like I’m suggesting it out of nowhere, but it could be worth it.”

“Risky?” Michael echoed. It was beyond risky. Alex’s idea meant that working at Taco Barn was still a likely conclusion for him, for both of them.

“Okay, risky, radical, entrepreneurial, whatever you wanna call it. But Michael, I would commit to it one-hundred percent if you would.”

Michael sighed contemplatively. This wasn’t a decision he could make on the spot. “Dude, I don’t know. I’m gettin’ paid here, you know? It’s guaranteed cash. It’s kinda nice.”

“But is it worth it?” Alex came right out and asked. “You’re an errand-boy for the director and you’re away from the girl of your dreams. Yeah, that sounds real nice. And every second you’re in L.A., your girl gets more and more miserable. And you don’t even care.”

“Of course I care!” he roared.

“Then do something. Show her you care.”

“How?” he asked too loudly. “I’m no good at this. I don’t know how to--” He was cut off abruptly when Cameron picked up his megaphone and bellowed, “Hey, Mikey! Why don’t you do us all a favor and shut the hell up! We’re trying to listen to Nikki’s moanin’, not your fuckin’ ramblin’!”

Michael sighed frustratedly and raked his hand through his hair.

“Who was that?” Alex asked.

“My boss. Listen . . . I gotta go.”

“Wait, Michael--”

He didn’t wait. He snapped his phone closed and put it back in his pocket, letting Alex’s idea continue to rumble around his head. It was definitely enticing in its own way . . .

“Yo, kid!”

He spun around, knowing at once that Cameron was addressing him.

“Lunch time in 3, 2, 1 . . . go get me some grub.”

Michael pushed Alex’s idea to the back of his mind for the time being and said, “On it.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Alex frowned as he stuck his phone back in his pocket. That had been his major attempt at getting Michael to come back home. He was serious about it, though. He wasn’t looking forward to working at Radioshack. He wanted to be making movies as much as the next aspiring director, but he was well aware of the fact that he lacked some of the natural talent Michael had. He had the brains, though, the mind for all the technical stuff that Michael didn’t care to pay attention to. It could be a good partnership.

“He’s not into it?” Isabel asked.

Alex shook his head. “No. Well, I don’t know. He sounded kind of busy. Plus, I couldn’t hear him very well on account of the moaning in the background.”

“He was having sex with someone?”

“No.”

“Then why--”

“Porn movie, Isabel.”

“Oh,” she said, nodding. “Right. Forgot about that. You know, I’ve never watched a porn movie.”

“You haven’t?”

“No, have you?”

He blushed and admitted it. “Isabel, I was a male virgin for twenty-two years. Of course I watched porn.”

“Well, I like your honesty. But I prefer to make my own porn.” She cringed after she said the words. “That was supposed to sound attractive, but I don’t think it did.”

“Everything you say sounds attractive,” he assured her.

“Only to you.” She smiled, swayed toward him, and leaned in to give him a quick kiss on the lips. “Mmm,” she purred. “You know, you don’t have to rely on Michael to make movies. You can do it on your own. I know you can. You’re brilliant.”

He chuckled. “Not so much. I think I put in more hours on a single film for Videography than Michael put in on all his films combined. And he got better grades than me.”

“He probably slept with the teacher.”

“No, the teacher was a guy.”

“Oh.” Isabel frowned. “Hmm. Well, we all know he’s unnaturally lucky.”

“Yeah, but that’s why I want him on board with me,” Alex explained. “You wanna hear the plan?”

“Tell me the plan.”

“Sit down.” He took her hand, sat down in the chair, and she sat down on his lap. He cleared his throat and told her some of his ideas. “So we may be graduating, right, but we’re still college-aged. It makes sense for us to target the college demographic by making some films that would appeal to them, advertising to them, even including them. Think of how many aspiring writers on this campus would love to create a script for us. Or there’s people like Tess, designers who would happily concoct a wardrobe. Think of how many aspiring actors and actresses would actually like to be in one of our movies. And lots of ‘em are really good, too. I mean, the list goes on. And see, the beauty of this student-included plan is that you can hire these people and get by with payin’ ‘em really low wages, because hell, they’re not gonna care. They wanna work on a film, they wanna get their names out there. They wanna have something to put on a resume. So in terms of money, it’s smart.”

“Of course it is. You’re smart.”

“Yeah, but it takes more than smarts,” Alex explained. “It takes this natural talent, and Michael’s just got it. But instead of using it, he’s wasting it, gettin’ lunch for his boss instead of actually making movies.” He shook his head in disappointment. “I don’t know, he seemed like he was busy, and I kinda had to talk fast, you know? It probably sounded more like word salad than words.”

“Well, word salad . . . that’s better than, like, word . . . pudding or something.”

He looked up at her and laughed. “Anyone ever tell you you’re a little . . .”

“Ditzy? Wacky? Yes.”

He smiled at her, so happy to be able to call her his girlfriend. Michael didn’t know what he was missing out on by not being with Maria. Being with the one person you cared about more than anything in the world . . . well, there was nothing like it.

“I love you, Alex,” she said, snaking her arms around his waist. “Whether you make movies with Michael or make movies by yourself or don’t even make any movies at all . . . I’m always gonna love you.”

There had been a time when hearing her say those words was just a distant—very distant—dream. Now it was real. It was crazy how things could change. “You know, when I started college,” he said, “I was just this little nerd staying in the honors dorm.”

“The honors dorm? Ew, Alex. They do homework for fun.”

“I remember.” He shook his head, happy that he had never gone to quite the extent those kids had. “I wish I had a picture, you know, scrawny little freshman me, standing outside my room, shaking in fear, dreading the years to come. I’m happy I’m ending it this way, with you.”

She leaned in and pressed her forehead against his. “Yep, you’re ending college. In . . . seven hours.” She reached over onto the table, picked up his graduation hat, and set it down atop his head.

“Tassel’s supposed to be on the right,” he informed her.

She moved the tassel on the cap from the left side back to the right and asked, “How’s that?”

“Good. Do I look stupid?”

“No, you look smexy.”

“Smexy?” He laughed. “What’s that?”

“Like smoldering and sexy wrapped up in one Alex-sized package.”

“Package? You wanna . . .” He grinned and wriggled his eyebrows, motioning with his head towards the bedroom. “Seven hours ‘til I end college, like you said. That’s some time to kill.”

“Oh, you’re such a horny former virgin,” she teased, getting to her feet. She grabbed his hand and pulled him up out of the chair, leading him into the bedroom. “Come on.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Mmm,” Tess moaned as she began to stir that morning. Her eyes flittered open, and she took a moment to cringe at the drool pooled on her pillow. Then she rolled over onto her back, stretched her arms up above her and smiled. She tried to start out every day with a smile, because if you didn’t do that, then you ended up having a day kind of like . . . well, kind of like the days Maria had. And those days weren’t fun for anyone.

“Fiancé,” she said in a sing-song voice, rolling over onto her side to curl up against him. “I’m up.” She trailed her hand beneath the covers and brushed it against his length, giggling.

“Whoa,” he said, his eyes immediately snapping open at the contact.

“Now you’re up, too.”

A huge grin came across Kyle’s face. “That was awesome. What exactly did you do to wake me up so fast?”

“I’m like God. I work in mysterious ways.”

He smiled. “I like that.”

“You’d better.”

“Hey, you had better promise me that we’ll wake up like this even when we’re married.”

“Like what?” she asked innocently.

“You know, horny as hell, wantin’ to fuck.”

She laughed. “Dude, if you ever don’t wake up like that, I’ll murder you.”

“Oh, really? And how, exactly, are you gonna pull off this murder?” he asked.

“Easy. I’ll smother you with my breasts.”

He chuckled. “Well, that’s my preferred way to die, so . . .”

“And it won’t leave any evidence.” She smirked.

“You’re very crafty,” he remarked. “Come here.”

She propped herself up on her arm and leaned in to give him a good morning kiss.

“Nice morning breath,” Kyle made sure to comment.

“You, too.” She kissed him again and murmured, “Mmm, Kyle?”

“Hmm?”

“Guess what?” Another kiss.

“What?” Another kiss.

She smiled. “I’m pregnant.”

Kyle’s eyes bulged, and for a moment, it seemed like he died. “What?” he gasped in panic.

She kept smiling, tried to keep it up, and finally gave in. “Just kidding!”

“Kidding?” he echoed. “Oh . . .” He breathed a noticeable sigh of relief, and Tess couldn’t stop laughing.

“You should’ve seen your face!”

“You’re just kidding?”

“Yes!”

“Good. Not that I don’t wanna procreate with you; just . . . we gotta be richer and more married first.”

“Definitely,” she agreed.

“Why would you tell me that, though? You think that’s funny?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Well, it’s not. Do you want to send me into a state of cardiac arrest?”

“Only sometimes. But, no, what I really want is to see you squirm. Squirmy Kyle.”

“Yeah, only you can get away with it.” He dug his head back into his pillow and sighed again. “What a relief.”

She lay next to him in comfortable silence for a moment before blurting out, “Maybe Maria’s pregnant.”

Kyle gave her a questioning look. “What?”

“Or maybe she doesn’t even have to be. Hear me out: I’m just thinking that the four of us—you, me, Isabel, and Alex—in our ever-present quest to get Michael and Maria together for once and for all . . . maybe it’s time we resort to outright lying.”

“Oh, because lying always works so well.”

“You know what I mean? We call Michael, we tell him Maria’s got a bun in the oven. His bun. He’ll come home, ‘cause even he’s not jackass enough to disregard that fact. And when he gets home, he can learn the truth about the bun—you know, the bun that doesn’t even exist—and then he and Maria can work it out and be together.” She smiled. “Perfect.”

“Perfect and never gonna work. We’ve done all we can do.”

“I know.” She sighed heavily and bent down to rest her head atop his chest. “I just feel bad for feeling so good right now.”

“That makes no sense.”

“No, it makes every kind of sense. This is the happiest time of my life and the worst time of Maria’s. I just hate seeing one of my best friends suffer. And we don’t even really know what Michael’s going through. I know he’s not one to let himself feel much of anything, but he’s gotta be beating himself up right now. I just . . . I feel bad for them but happy for us.”

“Well, you should feel happy for us. We’re in love. We’re engaged. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said as he stroked his hand up and down her bare back.

“Yeah,” she gave in and agreed. “Plus, you’re graduating today in . . . oh, six hours. More happy.”

“I guess,” he grumbled.

“You guess? Why do you not sound happy, Kyle? Aren’t you happy to be graduating?”

“Yeah, I’m stoked . . . except for the ceremony. You know, Maria was right when she said it’s pretty damn boring.”

“Understatement,” Tess agreed. “But I could make it more interesting for you.”

“How you gonna do that?” he asked.

She grinned. “Well, when you walk up on stage to get your diploma, I can either a) cheer loudly, b)do a crazy dance, or c) flash my boobies. Which one do you want?”

“Huh, well, let’s just go for it,” he said. “D, all of the above.”

She smiled up at him. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. Yell and dance and flash all at once.”

“Will do,” she promised. “They might escort me out of there, but . . . hey, they should be so lucky.” She snuggled in even closer to him and smiled contentedly. “Mmm, I kinda wish we didn’t have to go, though. It’d be nice to just lay here all day. I personally could look at my ring for hours without getting bored.”

“Yeah, but it’s my college graduation. It’s kind of a be-there thing,” Kyle pointed out.

“Be there or be square,” she said with a giggle. “But, wait a minute, you’re already square.”

“What?”

She lifted her head up and explained, “I called you a square. It means, like, nerd.”

“I know what it means.”

“I insulted you. Shame on me. You’d better punish me.”

“You know I will.” Kyle slipped out from underneath her and rolled on top of her, positioning himself at her entrance, slowly sliding in. “Ah, I love my girl.”

Tess smiled. Every girl deserved to hear the man she loved say those words.









TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 125

Post by April » Thu Oct 23, 2008 11:13 am

simplyshiny: I agree, Alex's plan is good!
art_junkie:
aww! cute fluffy-ness! Other then Michael and Maria of course..
:lol: Of course!
Sara:
Just because Maria and Michael can't figure it out, doesn't mean the rest of them can't.
Yeah, everyone else is figuring it out. It's all up to Michael to figure M+M out, which is a scary thought. :?
spacegirl23:
I love love love Kyle and Tess! Especially when she told him that she's pregnant!
:lol: Isn't that a cruel joke to play on a guy!
starcrazed:
I really like Alex's idea (not just because it would get Michael back home to Maria either ) It would definitely be hard, but those two could do it.
Yep. They would make a good team. With Michael's natural talent and Alex's brains for the business side of filmmaking, they could really make something happen.
nibbles:
See - all Alex's fault. The prosecution rests.
LMAO! Oh my goodness, it's strangely true. Alex got a little . . . distracted, shall we say? Like you said, his brains were . . . well, they weren't in his head. :lol:
tequathisy:
I'm really loving the new friendship between Liz and Maria. They are good for each other.
I'm glad you think so. I'll admit, as I was writing this, I began to wonder myself whether Liz and Maria could actually ever truly be friends, and good friends at that. I think you're right; they're good for each other.
killjoy:
And April.......I'm really kind of getting worried here on how well you come up with these porn titles.Did you study for your story by going down to the nearby rental hut and check out the racks?....Or did you browse from your on stash
Okay! :lol: Let's set the record straight here: I worked at a movie store when I was, like, 18 years old, and for some reason, I was put in charge of "maintaining cleanliness and orderliness" in the adult gallery. So I spent hours and hours back in this little room organizing and shelving porn movies with these crazy/kooky titles . . . that's not the kind of thing you forget!
Krista: lol, ice cream is always a good solution!
Christina:
First of all, so very Maria to say "Ride it, cowgirl," even in the midst of a strong bout of depression, and secondly, the fact that Liz added the whole "At least, I don't think there is." She so wants Max. It's cute!
Yeah, the "Ride it, cowgirl" part was so totally Maria, and you're right about Liz. She really wants Max! :D Can't say I really blame her, either. He's a really great guy.


Thanks for the feedback as always, everyone! Just a little FYI: There will be a Saturday update! Yes. Anyway, enjoy this part!


Oh, wait, one last thing. You guys know my music obsession. :) smiley indicates "Lover's Spit" by Broken Social Scene, which you can find here if you want: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqRCXP2f0dU&fmt=18 If the high quality doesn't work, the normal quality should. :D









Part 125







The nostalgia hit Maria hard from the moment she woke up that morning. Graduation day. End of an era and all that. Nostalgia was kind of inevitable.

She was searching for a new eyeliner pencil in the junk drawer of her dresser when she stumbled upon something Michael had given her, a card for her fifteenth birthday. It was only a loose-leaf piece of notebook paper folded in half with the words ‘Happy birthday to my girl’ scrawled across the front. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but she loved it and couldn’t help smiling fondly as she looked at it. She’d been his girl even back then.

“What’re you doing?”

“Oh.” She glanced up as her mom entered the room. “Nothing. Just looking at this old birthday card Michael made me. Freshman year of high school. We’d only met each other a few months earlier. We were already best friends, already pissing each other off.”

“That’s true, you were,” Amy said, nodding. “I wasn’t particularly thrilled that you were friends with him, but . . . well, at least he made you a card. Although it’s not a very extravagant card.”

“It’s a Michael card,” she said. “He’s not really into arts and crafts.”

“What’s on the inside?”

“Naked picture of him. I told you, it’s a Michael card.”

“I should’ve guessed.”

“I have to hand it to him, though. He’s always talking about his you-know-what. Sometimes he gets ridiculously annoying and claims it never stops growing. But really . . . compared to this picture of him at fifteen, it really has grown.” She laughed as she said the words. “Seriously, mom, if dad was packing as much junk in the frontal trunk, you probably wouldn’t have divorced him.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Sorry. I know it’s not the most clean-cut topic of conversation; it’s just . . . I never thought there’d be a day that I’d actually miss Michael bragging up his cock or miss him obsessing about lesbians or teasing me about everything under the sun. But I do. I miss it all. It’s like it’s just not right without him here.”

Amy shrugged and suggested, “Call him.”

“No.”

“Talk to him on Spacebook or whatever networking site you kids use these days.”

“Spacebook?” she echoed. “Facebook, Mom.”

“That, too.”

She rolled her eyes. “No. My interaction with Michael is strictly face-to-face, and if his face isn’t here to face my face, then there’s just not gonna be any face-to-face action, is there?”

“I guess not,” Amy acknowledged. “Well, chin up. You’re graduating college today. That’s a big accomplishment, and you should focus on feeling proud.”

“Proud?” she echoed. “It’s hardly an accomplishment, Mom. I basically whored my way through my first three and half semesters.”

“Well . . . then be proud of this last semester.”

“You mean the semester during which I lost my best friends? I’m so proud of that.”

Amy sighed heavily. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“It’s okay. I’m okay. I graduate in five hours, and I’m happy about that. I am. It’s just totally lackluster because I didn’t picture it happening this way, minus a Michael, but . . . whatever. I’m gonna walk with Kyle and get my diploma and rock that blue-screen blue graduation gown like no one else can.”

“Blue-screen blue?” Amy echoed curiously.

“You’ll see it. It’s the sickest color. Whoever picked it should just, like, be ashamed.”

“You’ll look nice no matter what.” Her mother smiled supportively and turned to leave the room.

“Mom?” she called.

Amy spun around.

Her mouth felt a little dry when she tried to speak again. She knew what she wanted to say, but it was a little hard to actually say it. “I just wanted to say . . . thank you for being here these past couple days. It’s been . . . surprisingly really nice to have you here. It’s helped, made me feel a little less lonely.”

Amy smiled, looking touched and said, “Oh, Maria, you don’t know how wonderful it is to hear you say those words.”

“Feels kind of weird to say them,” she admitted, “but it’s true. It’s just been really nice.”

“I’m just glad I could help out for once,” Amy said. “You know, if you want, I could probably move in and--”

“No!” she exclaimed immediately. “I mean . . . it hasn’t been that nice.”

Instead of getting upset the way she once might have, Amy just smiled and took it good-naturedly this time. “Relax. I was only kidding. I’ll be out of your hair after the graduation ceremony. Then you’ll have the place all to yourself.”

Maria felt an aching sensation arise in her gut as her mother walked out of the room. “All to myself,” she echoed, glancing down at the freshman year birthday card again nostalgically. “Great.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

:)

Max wasn’t sure whether he should be feeling nervous about giving his salutatorian address in front of hundreds and hundreds of people, but . . . he wasn’t. In fact, in a strange way, he was looking forward to it. It no longer stung that he wasn’t the valedictorian. He knew now it was meant to be that way. He had learned his lesson, and he would never make the same mistake again. He had learned more by dating Maria for four months than he had going to college classes for four years.

“Oh, wow.”

He turned around when he heard Liz’s voice and found her standing in the kitchen, looking him over.

“You look so blue,” she remarked.

He frowned, puzzled. “Really? I feel fine.”

“No, I mean, literally blue.” She gestured to what he was wearing.

He glanced down at the graduation robe he was wearing and chuckled. “Oh, yeah. It’s not exactly the most flattering attire, is it?”

She shrugged. “The color’s a little radioactive, but you look very nice.”

“Thanks.” He smiled at her, mentally taking notes of how nice she looked, too. She was wearing these short little shorts, and his male mind couldn’t help but wander to adult-rated places.

“Why are you already dressed, though?” she asked. “You still have four hours until graduation.”

“Well, would you rather I be undressed?” he asked in response. “I mean . . . I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know what you meant,” she said quickly. “I . . . think.”

She knows what I mean? he thought. Good, because I sure don’t. His feelings for Liz and his attraction toward her were quickly venturing into non-friendly territory. Actually, he had been in non-friendly territory ever since that night in the locker room.

“So,” she said, taking a few steps toward him. “Are you nervous about your speech?”

He shook his head. “Nope.”

“I would be. But with the grades I pulled this semester, I’ll never have to worry about giving one.”

“Oh, don’t be too sure.”

“No, trust me, I’m not valedictorian material.”

He shrugged. “Neither am I.”

“No, but you are. I’m more top ten percent of the class material. Or at least I wanna be.”

“You will be,” he assured her. Now that she was no longer going to be directing all her efforts into being Michael’s girlfriend, he had a feeling Liz’s future held great promise for her.

She sat down on the arm of the couch and asked, “Do you wanna practice your speech in front of me at all? I’d be willing to listen.”

“Thanks, but I think I’m good. You can be surprised this way.”

“Okay. I can’t wait to hear it.”

Either could he, especially since he had no real idea what he was going to say . . .

“So, what are your post-graduation plans?” Liz asked him. “Are you just gonna come back here, or . . .”

“Well, I think my parents are gonna take me out to dinner. Isabel’s probably gonna come with.”

“Oh, well, that sounds like a family thing, so I’ll just . . . I’ll come back here and do some cleaning or something.”

“You can come, if you’d like,” he told her. “I’m pretty sure Isabel will bring Alex, so . . .”

“So, you wanna bring me?”

“Well, yeah. My parents said they’d really like to get to know you since we’re . . .” He stopped talking abruptly because he almost said the word ‘dating.’

“Living together,” she filled in.

“Right.” Because that was all they were doing. “I think they liked you the last time they met you, so it should be a fairly peaceful dinner.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Okay. Peaceful’s good. If you’re sure I’m not imposing . . .”

“You’re not.”

“Then I’ll be there. Because, like you said, your parents . . . they wanna get to know me since we’re . . .”

“Living together.”

“Uh-huh.” She smiled and laughed a little. “Wow, Max, could we be any more obvious?”

He wrinkled his forehead in confusion. “What do you mean?”

She stood up on her feet again and replied, “I mean, listen to us. Listen to this conversation we’re having. ‘Oh, we’re living together. Oh, we’re living together.’”

“We are living together.”

“But Max . . . come on, we can’t keep stepping around this very pertinent fact that we slept together.”

“Which my parents will not find out about.”

She rolled her eyes. “No, of course not. But Max, ever since that night, things have been different between us. We are friends and we are roommates, but . . . I can’t be the only one having these thoughts, wondering what it might be like if we were ever . . .”

“Ever what?” he asked, even though he already knew where she was going with this.

“More,” she finished. “Look, with everything that’s going on with Maria and Michael . . . it’s just gotten me thinking.”

“About us?”

“Yeah. I mean, look at them. They were such good friends for such a long time. It’s like they were too scared to ever give into their feelings for each other, and then when they finally did, nothing went right. I don’t want that to happen to us. I don’t want us to live together for years and pretend there’s nothing between us, because there has to be something between us. I feel it. I feel something I never felt with Michael.”

He was a bit surprised—but not at all disappointed—by her sudden outspokenness. She was saying exactly what he wanted to hear. “I never felt like this with Michael, either,” he joked.

“You know what I mean.”

“I do,” he admitted. “But on the other hand, Liz . . . I already tried the dating a friend thing with Maria. Didn’t work out so well.”

“I’m not Maria.”

“Trust me, I know that.”

“Is that the problem, that I’m not Maria?”

“No,” he assured her immediately. “Liz, what I felt for Maria . . . I don’t feel it anymore because I’m too busy feeling these things for you.”

She smiled softly and inquired, “What kinds of things?”

“Things that I can’t say out loud without sounding like a . . . Michael.”

She laughed a little.

“And things that make my heart beat faster, but in a good way, you know?”

She nodded. “I know.”

“Things that would definitely take our good, solid friendship up a notch.”

She came in closer towards him and said, “Max.”

He expected her to say something more, but she didn’t. And he really didn’t know what else to say, either. She stepped right up in front of him, so close, and they let each other invade one another’s personal space. He leaned down and tentatively brushed his lips against hers, waiting to see how she responded. She seemed hesitant at first, too, but once they made contact, she deepened the kiss. He couldn’t help but kiss her back.

This feels so good, he thought as he encircled her waist with one arm, pulling her entire body in close to his. So good.

“Mmm,” she moaned as she smoothed her hands up his chest. “Max.”

“Yeah?” he managed between kisses.

She didn’t say anything after that, either. He could feel her fingers scrunching up the graduation robe he was still wearing.

“Mmm,” she moaned again as he kissed his way down to her neck. “We should . . . talk?”

“Yeah,” he agreed, though his hands had other ideas. He reached down to the bottom of her shirt and pulled it up over her head. She let him.

“Oh god, Max,” she gasped as he tossed her shirt onto the floor.

“We should talk about this,” he agreed as he slipped his arms out of the sleeves of his robe and pushed it up over his head.

“We really should,” she agreed, quickly unbuttoning his shirt for him. “You know, we should think this through.”

“Thinking,” he said, surprising himself when he reached down to cup her backside in his hands.

“Uh,” she gasped.

“Thinking’s good.”

“Uh-huh,” she said, sliding his shirt down over his arms. “Max? I think that we should . . .” She trailed off, looked him right in the eye in the midst of their frantic undressing, and smiled. “Oh, screw it.”

Their lips crashed together, and Max felt something even more powerful than he had in the locker room. Because this wasn’t an act stemming from anger or misery. This was pure, undiluted passion and desire. This was what it was all about.

He hoisted her up into his arms, and she wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. She laughed a little, then sought his lips out with hers again as he carried her into the bedroom. Their bedroom.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael wasn’t sure how he ended up on the phone with an angry administrator from a porn website. The phone calls Cameron got all sounded the same and started to bleed together.

“No, I don’t know when the movie’s gonna be ready for download. I’m just an intern.”

“Well, you’re Cam’s intern, aren’t you?” the angry administrator asked.

“Yeah, but he doesn’t tell me anything. I go get coffee for him, that kind of thing. All I know is production’s planned until the end of summer. I can tell him to call you later when he gets the time.”

“Tell him to make time right the hell now!” the administrator roared. “We had a deal. If he thinks he can back out just ‘cause he’s the god of sex on tape . . .”

He raked one hand through his hair, feeling as though he were about to go insane. This was all he had been doing for the past hour of his life, fighting to stay cordial with this guy. It was an hour of his life he’d never get back. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Put your boss on the phone!”

“I can’t. He’s in the middle of something.”

“Fine. Then tell him he can expect an irate phone call from me later. And kid, for the record, I don’t think you belong in this biz.”

Michael winced when he heard the dial tone. God-dammit, he thought. I can’t do anything right, can I? He clutched Cameron’s cell phone tightly in his hands, letting his fury boil up inside, and when it exploded, he threw the cell phone against the wall. It broke apart.

“Hey!” Cameron yelled. “What the hell do you think you’re doin’?”

Michael didn’t say anything. He was too pissed off. If he spoke, he’d probably say something that would get him fired. And he didn’t want that.

Did he?

“Alright, cut!” Cameron called, though his ‘actors’ just kept fucking. “Cut—I said cut!” He shook his head and stomped over towards Michael. “You’re paying for that, kid,” he said. “In fact, you can get me a better phone. More expensive. Shinier.”

Just keep your mouth shut, Michael told himself. He couldn’t say anything.

“What the hell’s your problem?” Cameron demanded. “What’s wrong, Mikey? Is it that time of the month again?”

“What the hell’s your problem?” Michael bellowed in response. “Caramel Macchiato, White Chocolate Mocha, fuckin’ Espresso! Nothing ever satisfies you! And you act like you’ve got this hectic, stressful life, but really, it’s just porn. How stressful can it be?”

“You fuckin’ know-it-all kid. Like to think you’re better than me, huh? Well, how much money have you made? How many movies have you sold?”

“No, it’s not about money or movies. You don’t get it.”

“And you don’t care,” Cameron shot back. “Do you? You don’t care about any of this. You’re an ungrateful little chicken shit, you know that? I gave you a shot; I gave you a chance.”

“A chance to wait on you hand and foot.”

“A chance to work on a movie.”

“It’s not a movie!” Michael roared. “It’s two people having sex, and in real life, that’s a good thing, but here there’s just . . . there’s nothing here. There’s nothing passionate or pleasurable about anything that goes on here. There’s just . . . nothing.” It sunk in as he said it, what ‘nothing’ really was. Nothing was no Maria.

Cameron looked at him quizzically and asked, “Are you high?”

Michael shook his head in frustration. He really couldn’t stand it anymore. Any of it. The movie, the city . . . he would’ve given anything to be back in Santa Fe, back in his own house, back with . . .

“You know what?” Cameron abruptly interrupted his thoughts. “Believe it or not, I ain’t ever said this to anyone before, but I pretty much can’t stand you, kid. Hate ya.”

When he said that, Michael immediately flashed back to Maria telling him the same thing the night she had gone home.

“I hate you!”

She’d been standing in that hotel room, eyes blazing, brimming with tears, voice high-pitched and furious, and she’d said . . .

“I hate you!”

“I hate you, kid,” Cameron grumbled again.

Michael didn’t care about that. All he cared about was Maria . . . he couldn’t stand to have her hate him.

“Michael!”

She wasn’t just some girl. She mattered to him. More than anything, she mattered to him. And being with her was so much better than being without her. He was suddenly feeling like the world’s biggest idiot for ever letting her walk out of that hotel room, and he was feeling like an even bigger idiot since it was just dawning on it now what a mistake it was.

“Hey, el stupido, you listening? I hate you,” Cameron repeated.

Michael frowned, tuning him out, his thoughts still solely centered on Maria.

“Hello, are you not hearing me? I hate you!”

What did he think he was going to do, just be okay with never talking to her again?

“I hate you!”

Never laughing with her again, watching her dance, filming her with his camera, pissing her off . . .

“I hate you!”

Never touching her . . .

“Michael!”

Or kissing her . . .

“I hate--”

Or . . .

“I love you!”

It hit him like a ton of bricks. Or a ton of tons, the sudden knowledge that his feelings for her . . . she was his friend, but she wasn’t just that. And he was attracted to her, but it was more . . . it’d always been more, and he’d always been stupid about it, but it was sort of like an epiphany now, long overdue . . .

“I love you, too.”

“Huh?” Cameron said confusedly. “Is that some kind of joke?”

Michael just smiled to himself. It felt so good to say those words. He’d been holding them in for such a long time now, but he really did love her. He really always had.

“Alright, somebody get this idiot outta here,” Cameron said. “He’s high on crack.”

“No,” Michael said. “No, I don’t mean . . . I don’t love you. God, no, I hate you, too, man, you know that right?”

“Then what’re you--”

“No, it’s her,” he explained. “I love her.”

The porn star who was riding a guy for the camera stopped and smiled at him. “Really?”

“No, not you,” he told her. “Maria. I love Maria. Holy fuck, I’m such an idiot. Eight years. Eight years and I’m just figuring it out now? What’s wrong with me?”

“Been askin’ myself the same thing ever since I hired you,” Cameron muttered.

“She’s . . . Maria. She’s my girl. She’s my dirty girl. I love her.”

“Dirty?” Cameron echoed in suddenly interest. “Would she do porn?”

“Just shut up!” Michael snapped. “I gotta tell her. I—she told me. I didn’t tell her. She thinks . . .” He trailed off and shook his head, suddenly worried about what she was feeling for him right now. Maybe she was so pissed that she wasn’t going to want to hear what he had to say. Maybe she didn’t want to forgive him or listen to him. Maybe she really did just hate him now. “Oh, shit.” He took out his own cell phone and thought about calling her, but . . . no, he couldn’t do that. That was stupid. And he’d been stupid enough for one lifetime already. He had to see her, had to talk to her face to face.

“Seizure,” Cameron concluded. “He’s havin’ a seizure. Call 911, pretend that I care.”

“I have to go,” Michael said, thinking out loud as he backed away. “I have to go to her, ‘cause . . .” He grunted. “I sure as hell don’t wanna stay here.”

“You don’t wanna?” Cameron shrugged. “Alright, makin’ it even easier on me then. You’re--”

“No, I’m not fired; I quit,” Michael told him, smiling because it felt so good. “This is a glorious day for interns everywhere. I quit this job, quit this town . . .” He laughed, never having imagined that it would feel this good to get out of here. There was just one more thing he had to do.

He took Cameron’s Caramel Macchiato and dumped it into his director’s chair. “There’s your coffee,” he said, pleased with himself, as he left the studio.

“Kid!” Cameron called. “Mikey! Guerin!”

He didn’t stop.

“Fine!” Cameron shouted. “Fuck yourself over. No girl’s worth it. No girl!”

This girl is. He couldn’t wait to see her again, whether she wanted to bone him or kill him. Either way, he was a winner.









TBC . . .

-April :wink:
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 126

Post by April » Sat Oct 25, 2008 12:26 pm

chanks_girl:
I can't believe it took somuch time until Michael realized that he loved Maria
Yeah, it took him (brace yourself) 1,355 pages!!!
starcrazed:
I love that both Michael and Maria want that face to face interaction.
Yeah, somehow, with the two of them, a phone call just wouldn't cut it. ;)
Sara:
And I have to say, we should all be thanking cameron. iF he hadn't been such a dick, this wouldn't have been so easy for michael to quit.
Definitely! That porn movie and that ass of a director are two of the best things that have ever happened to Michael, in a very strange sort of way!
Ashley: Wait no longer! It's Saturday!
Wendy: :lol: About freaking time is right!
Morgan8: Thanks for reading!
nibbles:
clouds part, heavenly golden light bathes the earth, a choir of angels sing,

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah
LMAO!
Alien_Friend:
Are we coming to the end? If so that's really sad.
Yep, believe it or not, we're actually really close to the end. :) :( :)
spacegirl23: Of course his brain works kind of slow! He's Passion Michael! :lol:
Krista:
I finally like Max and Liz, April.
That's so good! I realize some people may never like them (just like some people may never like Michael and Maria) but I have to say that I've really enjoyed writing this journey they've gone on.
singerchic4: Tell singerchic she gets MORE MORE! ;)
CandyLand:
Now how many chapters until he gets to Maria? A one....a two.... a threeeee....?
One of those guesses is correct. ;)
art_junkie:
WOOOHOOO Max and Liz getting together, and Michael getting his senses back- all in one post?! It's too good to be true
Yeah, I think I spoiled you readers with that last part! lol
tequathisy:
At last.
:lol: And that pretty much just sums it up, doesn't it?
simplyshiny: I'll joing in. Gooooo Michael! :D
Christina:
But I could see him and Maria causing some kind of scene at the graduation ceremony.
Of course they're going to cause some kind of scene! They can't not!
killjoy:
You know Michael reminds me of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz....it's like this whole story he's been walking around singing 'If I Only Had a Brain'.And now it seems that he has finally developed one.....of course being Michael he did have to to do it on a porn set in the middle of filming sex
Oh, too funny! If Michael is the Scarecrow, then what does that make everyone else? :lol: And yeah, he has the big epiphany on the set of a porn movie . . . figures. :roll:


Thanks for the feedback! I'll tell you, a lot of people would ask me, 'What's it going to take for Michael to get a clue?' and now I guess we've got the answer: time.


Lyrics in this part are from "Hate Me" by Blue October. I know they don't fit exactly, and I know the song is about something totally different from this fic, but I just . . . I don't know. Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOziJi-1hHE&fmt=18









Part 126








Michael shoved his things into a bag, not really caring about them. All that really mattered was that he had his wallet, his camera, and his picture of Maria. He wasn’t ever coming back to that hotel room, and he couldn’t leave without those three things.

“I have to block out thoughts of you so I don’t lose my head
They crawl in like a cockroach leaving babies in my bed.”


He slung his bag over his shoulder and bolted from the room, never once looking back. He wasn’t even going to check out. He’d do that over the phone later. Right now, he didn’t have a second to waste.

“Dropping little reels of tape to remind me that I’m alone
Playing movies in my head that make a porno feel like home.”


He held his girl’s picture in his hand, glanced down at it, and smiled. He was going to tell her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria lightly pressed her mascara brush against her top eyelashes, curling and darkening them. She applied lipstick and combed her hair and did all the things girls did to look beautiful. She had to look nice. College was ending, after all, and that wasn’t the kind of thing a person looked shitty for.

“There’s a burning in my pride, a nervous bleeding in my brain
An ounce of peace is all I want from you. Will you never call again?”


She stood up and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She looked fine, but she felt wrong somehow, like part of her wasn’t there because Michael wasn’t there. Did that sound pathetic?

“And will you never say that you love me just to put it in my face?
And will you never try to reach me?
It is I that wanted space.”


She glanced back at the bed and flashed back to that night, being tangled beneath the sheets with Michael. She winced, because it hurt to remember something like that. It hurt worse to know that it would never happen again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Taxi!” Michael ran outside the hotel and skidded to a stop at the edge of the sidewalk. “Taxi!” He waved his arms in the air furiously, trying to attract the attention of one of the drivers.

“Hate me today!”

They sped right by him, and that infuriated him. Didn’t they know that he was trying to do something romantic for the first time in his entire life?

“Hate me tomorrow!”

Finally one of the taxis pulled up to the curb, and he wasted no time tossing his luggage into the backseat and crawling in next to it. “Airport,” he told his driver. “Fast as possible.”

“Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you!”

He had a feeling the drive to the airport would be painstakingly slow.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Liz lay beneath Max, holding onto him for dear life as he moved inside her with long, slow thrusts. She wrapped her legs around him and pulled him closer, needing to feel all of him just as he felt all of her. He was incredible.

“Hate me in ways!”

His lips sought out hers as their bodies undulated together, and he kissed her, softly yet insistently. Her mouth mated with his naturally. Nothing had ever felt so right in her life.

“Yeah, ways hard to swallow!”

She smiled as he bent to suck on her neck. Making love like this made it almost impossible to think about anything but the physical pleasure and the emotions involved in that pleasure.

“Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you!”

They really weren’t just friends. And she really felt good about that.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria put on her graduation robe, took a step back, and examined her reflection. Horrible color. Too large. There were a million things that were wrong about it and not one thing that was right.

“I’m sober now for three whole months
It’s one accomplishment that you helped me with.”


She twirled around, but the robe still didn’t look any better. She wasn’t satisfied.

“The one thing that always tore us apart is the
One thing that I won’t touch again.”


She put on the uncomfortable hat next, frowning. It looked unnatural on her, like maybe she wasn’t meant to graduate. Or maybe she just wasn’t meant to graduate without a certain annoying best friend there to tease her.

“In a sick way I want to thank you
For holding my head up late at night.”


She tilted the cap to the side a bit, thinking that looked slightly more fashionable, and placed the tassel on the right side. She was still a college senior for a couple more hours, and having the tassel on the right signified that.

“While I was busy waging wars on myself
You were trying to stop the fight.”


What would she do when she wasn’t a college senior? What did she have to look forward to?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael closed his eyes and couldn’t stop picturing the look on Maria’s face the last time he had seen her, the absolutely infuriated, stubborn-as-hell look.

“You never doubted my warped opinions on things like suicidal hate.”

And the sound in her voice when she’d told him she loved him . . .

“You made me compliment myself when it was way too hard to take.”

Why hadn’t he just said it back? He felt it. He’d always felt it.

“So I’ll drive so fucking far away that I never cross your mind
And do whatever it takes in your heart to leave me behind.”


He was so glad to see the airport when the cab came to a stop. He tossed the driver some money—didn’t know how much, didn’t care—grabbed his bag, and sprung out of the car. He was going to tell her. It had taken him so long, but now, after all this time, it was going to be worth it to finally stop being a dumb-ass and tell her he loved her, too.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria walked out into the living room slowly, sort of in a daze. This was really happening, wasn’t it? As much as she complained about graduation being just a boring, drawn-out ceremony, it really was a big milestone. She was having a milestone without Michael? That was so wrong.

“Hate me today!
Hate me tomorrow!”


Her mother smiled at her, seeming genuinely proud, and said, “Honey, you look so beautiful. Ready to graduate?”

“Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you!”

“No,” she whispered, not loud enough for her mother to hear. How was she supposed to do this, this whole life thing she had to do in the future? How was she supposed to get through this without her best friend?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I’m sorry, sir, the plane is leaving in ten minutes. There’s no way you can make it.”

Michael sighed in frustration, determined not to let that stop him. “Just print me the ticket. I’ll make it. I’ll run fast. Please.”

“Hate me in ways!”

The ticket agent gave him a skeptical look but printed the ticket anyway. “I shouldn’t even be doing this,” she mumbled. “You’ll need to check your bag, but it’s too late to make it on the flight--”

“I don’t care about that.” He took his camera out of his bag and disregarded the rest.

“Yeah, ways hard to swallow!”

Once he had his ticket in hand, he sprinted. He wasn’t even sure if he was going the right way, but he knew somehow he’d made that flight. He couldn’t wait for the next one.

“Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you!”

He had to get to his girl. Now.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria knew it was the start of the rest of her life. And she didn’t want to start out this way.

“And with a sad heart I say bye to you and wave.”

She wanted to start out with Michael. She wanted to start out with Michael. Was that really too much to ask?

“Kicking shadows on the street for every mistake that I have made.”

She rode to the graduation auditorium with her mother in silence. If she said anything, she probably would have broken down in tears. And she didn’t want to start off the rest of her life with a cry-fest, either.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“And like a baby boy I never was a man.”

Michael ran faster than he knew he could run. Faster than he’d run in Vegas after stealing Stallone’s wax nose with Maria.

With Maria. Always with Maria.

“Until I saw your blue eyes cry and I held your face in my hand.”

He ran into a big guy in his haste and dropped his camera on the ground. The thing was old, so it broke. One side came completely unattached. The strange part? He didn’t care.

“And then I fell down yelling ‘Make it go away!’”

He thought, Screw it, left the video camera behind, and kept on running. He cut everyone in line at the security checkpoint, flew through there, and kept racing towards his gate.

“Just make a smile come back and shine just like it used to be.”

He skidded to a stop at the gate and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the plane was still there. He practically shoved his ticket to the gatekeeper and whizzed right past her to board the plane.

“And then she whispered, ‘How can you do this to me?’”

He was going to make things right. Somehow, some way or another, it would happen. He knew it, and he couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of it.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria tried to smile when she saw Kyle, Isabel, Alex, and Tess standing outside the auditorium, clearly waiting for her. She got out of the car and made her way over to them, wishing she could be more lively and excited. She hated being so depressed.

“Hate me today!
Hate me tomorrow!”


Kyle and Alex were each decked out in their graduation attire as well, so when they tried to hug her, all three of their hats collided. That gave everyone a mild laugh, but then they were back to the bittersweet symphony that was graduation shortly thereafter.

“Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you!”

They said there was no sign of Max and Liz yet, and Maria was happy about that. She hoped they were still at home doing something horny and crazy. They were good, flawed people, and they deserved some love. Everyone deserved love.

“Hate me in ways
Yeah, ways hard to swallow!”


Her mom asked her and her friends—yes, it was nice to know that she still did have friends—to get together and pose for a picture outside the auditorium. Then she and Isabel and Tess headed inside while Maria, Kyle, and Alex stayed outside with all the other graduates. The start of the rest of their lives was growing scarily nearer.

“Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you.”

Michael . . .


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I’m coming, Maria. He felt like a complete idiot for the things he’d done, the things he hadn’t said. But he was going to make up for that now. He could get his best friend back, and he could be in love with her, too. Because hell, that’d been the story of his life for the last eight years. That was nothing new.

“For you . . .
For you . . .
For you . . .”


He wished he could fly back to Santa Fe faster than the plane could, because he would’ve done it. He couldn’t wait to tell her, couldn’t wait to see the look on her face.

It felt so good to be going home.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria tensed up when she heard the campus orchestra start playing the graduation music. She flashed back to her high school graduation for a moment, and it occurred to her how much had changed since then. Creepy.

“Pomp and Circumstance,” she muttered. “You know, they should really consider a new graduation tune. Could you imagine shuffling towards your seat to some Timbaland or Justin Timberlake or Metallica? No, no Metallica. Scratch that.” She was so stuck on him, and it was impossible to get him out of her mind. “Let’s just stick with Pomp and Circumstance.”

Kyle smiled. “Okay.”

While Maria and Kyle both waited for their turn and watched other students filing into the auditorium in pairs, Maria kept looking around for Max. He still hadn’t shown up, and that was very strange, especially for him.

Suddenly, she saw him running through the parking lot. He ran up to them, gasping for breath, and managed to ask, “Did I miss it? Did we graduate?”

“No,” Maria replied. “Do you really think I’d still be in this hideous robe if we had?”

“Good point.”

“Where were you?” she asked out of her own curiosity.

“Oh, just, you know . . .”

“Did you sleep in or something? Way in.”

“Uh . . .”

Kyle chuckled and gave his friend a pat on the back. “Ah, he was gettin’ laid, weren’t you Max?”

“Um, well . . .” Max blushed and couldn’t hold back his smile.

“How can you tell?” Maria asked Kyle.

“It’s a guy thing.” Kyle gave him another pat on the back. “Congrats, man. It was with Liz, right?”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” Max responded, “but yes.”

“Good for you, Max,” Maria said, “being a lust bunny with Liz. I think you two make a good couple.”

“That means a lot, Maria. Thanks.”

She smiled and gave him a hug. God, this felt good, this feeling of friendship with Max. She had missed it so much and for so long.

“Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt the Kodak moment,” Kyle said, “but Max, you are supposed to be up on stage already.”

Max glanced into the auditorium, exclaimed, “Oh, shoot!” and took off at the speed of light.

“He’s still on an orgasm rush,” Maria concluded as some of the last students of the class of 2008 filed into the auditorium. Apparently it was her and Kyle taking up the rear.

“You ready for this great moment in your life?” Kyle asked, extending his arm to her.

She linked her arm with his and they slowly headed into the auditorium to join the rest of the graduating class. “Great moment?” she echoed skeptically. “Right. The only way this is gonna be great is if Michael magically swoops in and tells me he loves me, too.” She gave Kyle a look and added, “But really, what’re the chances of that happening?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael leaned against the little aero-sink in the tiny airplane bathroom, for once not even thinking about the fact that he was on a plane and not wearing a seatbelt. He took a look at himself in the mirror, the tired bags beneath his eyes, and he wondered if Maria would still want him. He’d done some pretty crappy things. Maybe she was over him. Maybe she’d had enough. Maybe he was too late.

“God, why were you stupid?” he asked himself aloud, slamming his fist against the mirror. “Why were you such a dumb-ass? ‘Oh, Maria, I like hanging out with you all the time. I like seeing you naked. I think about you more than everyone else. But do I have feelings for you? No. Oh, I’d rather just screw random girls for years and waste time I could be spending with you.’ Dumb-ass!” As much as he loved himself, he really hated himself, too, for his idiotic tendencies.

He raked one hand through his hair and went on. “And you know, you could’ve just told her how you felt when she was here a couple days ago. Or you could’ve told her years ago. Or here’s a thought, the first time you ever saw her, because let’s be honest, even back then . . .” He trailed off and shook his head. He was pretty pissed about all the time he had wasted just being Maria’s friend, but then again, being Maria’s friend was a good thing. It was that friendship that allowed him to be closer to her than to anyone else in the world. So maybe it was good that things had turned out this way. Still . . . eight years. Eight years. That was fuckin’ ridiculous.

“I wonder if we’ll have sex again,” he mumbled to himself. “Maybe we shouldn’t even have sex. Maybe we should just hang out. Or maybe we should just have sex. Or maybe we should hang out and then have sex. Or maybe we should have sex and then hang out. Fuck, I don’t know.” He was confusing himself with all his rambling. This wasn’t like him.

When there was a knock on the door to the bathroom, he rolled his eyes in annoyance and opened it, barking, “What?”

The man waiting said, “Are you coming out in this century? Other people have to use the restroom, you know.”

“Hey, do you mind? I’m havin’ a conversation.”

The man glanced into the bathroom and made a face of confusion. “With who?”

“Myself. Back off.” Michael swung the door shut again and locked it into place.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

As Max sat up on that stage next to the valedictorian, Arlene, listening to the Dean address all those in attendance, he realized that maybe being the salutatorian was a good thing after all. It made him realize he wasn’t academically invincible. Perhaps even more important, he now knew never to compromise his own convictions for a girl, no matter who that girl was.

“Before I finish up,” the Dean was saying, “I’d like to reiterate how fortunate these students are to have all of you here today, sharing in this special moment, this unforgettable milestone, this step towards the future.”

Max glanced out at the rest of the graduates and located his friends. Kyle looked only semi-attentive, and Maria was yawning, seemingly bored out of her mind. At least they weren’t texting like half of the other students, though.

He cast his glance upward to the balcony where all the family and friends were sitting. It didn’t take him long to find Liz. She was looking right at him, smiling. He smiled back at her, thinking about what they had done only an hour prior to this. It’d been even greater than their interlude in the locker room, more about the two of them and less about Michael and Maria. In fact, it didn’t have anything to do with Michael and Maria. He and Liz had had sex, and it had only been about the two of them, about their feelings for each other. That was an amazing thought.

“At this time, I’d like you to give your attention to someone whom I believe to be one of the most exemplary students ever to attend this university . . . this year’s class salutatorian, Maxwell Evans.”

Everyone started clapping for him, but he just kept sitting there and smiling at Liz. It wasn’t until she motioned for him to get up that he broke himself out of his daze and did so. He walked up to the podium, shook hands with the Dean, and squinted as the glare of the spotlight shone down on him. He took a few moments to adjust to the brightness as the Dean returned to his seat on the other side of the stage and the applause quieted down. Then he took a deep breath and started speaking.

“Hi, um . . .” He stopped and laughed inwardly, amused by the fact that he had just begun his salutatorian address with the word ‘hi.’ “Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’m kind of a private person. Sometimes. I keep things to myself and I stay quiet, and that’s just the way I am. So here I am, standing up here in front of all of you, and I’m about to open up. It’s . . . terrifying, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to it.” He smiled, hoping this was going to be well-received, the continued on.

“Here’s the thing: I don’t have my speech memorized. In fact, I don’t even really have a speech. I wrote one months ago, but it was very cliché and predictable. You know, it was the whole, ‘we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us’ kind of thing. Which we do, and that’s great, but that’s not what I want my salutatorian address to be. So anything you’re hearing me say is coming straight from me, not from a piece of paper. I don’t have this planned out, as shocking as that may seem to you.” He cast a glance at Kyle and Maria again and noticed that both of them were staring at him with wide open mouths, clearly stunned by this unrehearsed speech. He laughed a little and then turned to face the Dean. “Mr. Dean, don’t hate me for this, but the speech you looked at it . . . I can’t give it. But don’t worry. I won’t get vulgar or inappropriate.”

The Dean smiled and nodded encouragingly.

Max sighed, trying to figure out where he was going with this. He wanted to get personal, but not too personal. There was a fine line, a balance, and he needed to find that balance on the spot. He cleared his throat and told the audience, “I had a . . . a radical year. That’s really one of the few words that I can use to describe it. It started off normal enough, I guess, but I got to my last semester as an undergraduate, and a lot happened. A lot changed. I changed. I think everyone I know changed. And things weren’t always good. There were some bad things that happened, and looking back, I think I was partly to blame. There was yelling, and there was crying. There were accusations, and there was anger.” He looked right at Maria, right into her eyes. “And there was forgiveness. And there’s somebody in this graduating class who really needs to know and believe that I forgive her. Because I do.”

Tears shown in Maria’s eyes, even at a distance.

“I’m not trying to be gallant or brave,” he assured her. “I really do forgive you. You really are my friend. You really always will be, no matter how bad either of us messes up. And isn’t that all you can ask of someone, at the end of the day?” He posed that question to the entire audience. “Just to be there, to be there for you, no strings attached? See, I’m lucky like that. Those are the kind of the friends I have, the ones who support me and like me and want the best for me. And everyone should have that. Because people . . . they’re what matters.” He nodded after he said it, truly believing it.

“I, uh . . .” He cleared his throat again, hoping that his honesty wasn’t boring people. “I studied a lot in college. I don’t really feel like I missed out on anything, though, because I still had a lot of fun with my friends. Probably helped that I knew them in high school, too, but over these last four years, ever since we moved in together . . . they’re not just my friends; they’re my family. They mean that much to me. Each one of them. And I can honestly look back on my life as an undergraduate and say with one-hundred percent conviction that the most important thing about my college experience wasn’t the education I received or the diploma I’m about to get, but the relationships. The relationships that grew stronger, the relationships that changed, even the relationships that had to get a little bit dark. I feel closer to my friends, to my family, than I ever have before. And that’s saying something.” He took a look at Maria again, and she was just crying. Happy crying, though. Even Kyle looked a little emotional.

Max looked around at the other students, then glanced up at his parents and Isabel. “I don’t wanna ramble too long,” he said, “but to the other people who are here for me, my other family, the genetic one . . .” He smiled and said, “I love you guys. Isabel, I’m proud of the woman you’re becoming, and I wanna be here to support you as you continue to grow up; and Mom and Dad . . . I’m not the perfect son. I’m not even nearly the perfect son. But now that we both know and accept that, we’ll be closer, too. It’s inevitable, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

His parents smiled, and his mom blew him a kiss.

“And just one more thing,” he said, preparing to finish up. “There’s one more person who’s here for me today. She knows who she is, and I hope she knows what I’m feeling for her. Because it’s new, and it’s different, and as far as I can tell, it’s exactly what I want.” He smiled at Liz and said, “Thank you. You may not think you’re a good person, but you’re one of the best people I know. And anyone who’s made me feel as alive as you have can’t be bad.”

Now it was Liz’s turn to get teary-eyed.

“Don’t cry,” he said. “It’s a good thing.” And it was. It really was. Whatever he had going with Liz, whatever they had to look forward to . . . there was nothing bad about it.

He flapped his hands against his sides, content with the words he had spoken, and attempted to end on a note of humor. “Congratulations to the class of 2008, and in the legendary words of Forrest Gump, ‘that’s all I have to say about that.’” Some people laughed, so he nodded and said, “Thank you,” before turning and going back to his seat. For a moment, he just had to sit there and take in the boisterous applause he was receiving. It took a few seconds to realize that everyone had stood up and was giving him a standing ovation for the words he had just said right off the top of his head.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Liz stood and applauded Max’s speech, shocked that he had addressed her, shocked that he had said what he’d said. No one had ever spoken to her that way, made her feel . . . good about herself.

She had expected him to say something to Maria, to his parents, to Isabel. He was close to those people. But now she knew for a fact that he felt close to her, that their connection wasn’t just one way. Not that there had ever been much doubt in her mind, especially after their lovemaking earlier that day.

She had to stop clapping and just gaze at him, not the way she used to gaze at Michael like a lovesick infatuation junkie, but in a way that she was comfortable with, a way that still allowed her to be herself, to be honest, and to be happy.

Oh my god, she thought, smiling a huge smile. I’m falling in love.

For real this time.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael was the first one off the plane. Hell, he barely waited for it to land.

“Welcome to the Land of Enchantment,” the pilot said, pairing the state’s nickname with a friendly smile as people climbed off the plane.

“Hey, that was some enchanted flying you guys did,” Michael informed them as he hurried off. “Thanks, guys! I owe you one!”

The pilots waved goodbye to him, and he took off at full speed, racing out into the airport. The Santa Fe airport was a million times smaller than the LAX airport, so he was outside in no time, trying to flag down a taxi.

“Taxi!” he yelled. The disadvantage about being back in New Mexico was that there weren’t nearly as many taxis. Not nearly as many people in a hurry to get somewhere. “Taxi!” He supposed it would have been wiser to call Kyle while he was on his way back, tell him to come pick him up at the airport. Cell phone reception might not have been too good what with him flying up high in the air and all, but Kyle would have gotten the message. He would have been there on time, and Michael wouldn’t be having this damn taxi situation. “I need a fuckin’ taxi!”

At last, a cab pulled up to the curb, and he hopped in.

“Take me to North 16th Street,” he said.

“Where on--”

“Just drive, alright? It’s my house. I know where to go.”

The driver nodded and lightly pressed down on the accelerator.

“Drive faster,” Michael told him. He couldn’t waste any more time.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I’m not saying that the hard work ends now. In fact, it may just be beginning. Our futures, though they are full of possibilities, are also full of temptations, choices to be made, obstacles to overcome. How we deny those temptations, contemplate those choices, and overcome those obstacles is up to us. Each and every one of us has a life to lead.”

Maria yawned, unable to hide her boredom. It wasn’t that Arlene Ross’s valedictorian speech wasn’t good. It was. Well-written, well-spoken, grammatically correct . . . but Max’s had been much more interesting. This speech was the most cliché of all possible cliché graduation speeches, so predictable, so tune-outable, and so endless.

“How long have we been sitting here?” she asked Kyle quietly.

“About two hours,” he replied.

“Oh my god.” That was just ridiculous. What was worse was that fact that they hadn’t even started handing out the diplomas yet. “And how long have we been listening to this bitch ramble?”

“Hour and a half.”

She groaned in exasperation. “Doesn’t she know nobody’s listening?”

“Apparently not.”

“Everyone’s falling asleep. Can’t they just, like, turn the microphone off? That might give her a hint.”

“Face it,” Kyle said. “We’re doomed to sit here for all eternity and never graduate.”

“Totally doomed,” she agreed, yawning again. She glanced up at Max, and even he looked as though he were trying to keep from nodding off. She looked over at Alex and found that he was . . . surprisingly lively. He was clearly communicating with Isabel via hand gestures, even though the auditorium was dark. She saw him make a circle with his left index finger and thumb and laughed lightly as he poked his right index finger through it, signifying sex.

“In conclusion,” Arlene said, causing everyone to perk up with those two beautiful words, “we each have a plethora of life ahead of us, a wide array of experiences just waiting to be explored. Don’t shy away from them, but seek them out and invest in them. Be smart, and be alive.”

Everyone clapped a little too loudly, obviously wanting her to be satisfied with her ninety-minute valedictorian address and sit down. Much to everyone’s horror, though, when the applause died down, Arlene just smiled and said, “Part two: Community outreach.”

“Oh, fuck this,” Maria muttered, prepared to throw her hat up in the air and graduate without the damn diploma. Luckily, the Dean intervened.

“Whoa, okay, Ms. Ross, I think you’ve been enough of an inspiration for one day.” He gently grabbed her arm and tried to usher her away from the podium.

“Are you sure?” she said, obviously hesitant to return to her seat. “I had this whole section on civic pride and a volunteer’s testimonial.”

“That’s nice.” The Dean smiled and literally sat her down in her seat. Then he returned to the podium and said, “Well, that was . . . riveting material from this year’s valedictorian, Ms. Arlene Ross. One more round of applause for her, if you will.”

Everyone clapped half-heartedly as they started to fall back asleep.

“Without further ado,” the Dean said, “we’ll begin distributing the diplomas.”

“Finally,” Kyle muttered. “I’m ready to blow this pop-stand.”

“Me, too,” Maria agreed. There was no doubt in her mind that the diploma-getting was going to be just as disastrous as the rest of the graduation ceremony. Really, Max was going to be looked at like a hero after this. His speech was the only good thing about this entire afternoon.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael paid his cab driver and jumped out of the car. He ran up to his front door and tried to open it, but it was locked. Muttering curses to himself, he took out his key, unlocked the door, and shoved it open.

“Maria!”

The house looked so empty, but one thing he couldn’t help but notice was a gigantic banner draped across the kitchen cupboards. It said Congratulations! and underneath it was scrawled Love, Mom.

“What?” He wrinkled his forehead in confusion and squinted his eyes to make sure he read the Love, Mom part correctly. “What?” he spat. “Huh?” Graduation, he realized. It was graduation day. He knew that. Why hadn’t he thought about it before? Hell, he’d just wasted more time. Why did he keep doing that?

He shut the door and spun around. “Hold up!” he yelled to his cab driver. He ran after the car as it was slowly pulling away and pounded on the door. The driver stopped, and he climbed back in. “Change of plans,” he said. “I need to get to, uh . . .” He wracked his brain, trying to remember where graduation was being held this year. “The auditorium . . . Larson Hall. Larson Hall auditorium. I need to get there.”

“Sure thing,” the driver said as he made a U-turn.

“Thanks.” Michael looked out the window and gave himself a mental punch for being an idiot. Again. “Hey, I’ll pay you double if you speed.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Amy couldn’t believe it was finally here. Her daughter, stubborn and rebellious to the core, was going to walk up on that stage and get a diploma. She had to admit, there had been a time when she hadn’t thought it would happen. In fact, there had been a time when she had doubted that Maria would even finish high school. She wasn’t goal-driven by nature, and she tended to not apply herself as much as she could. But she really was a smart, talented girl, and Amy knew now that she needed to remind her of that more often. She was a young woman entering adulthood for the first and only time, and she needed a good mother. Not just a regular mother, but a good one. Of course, the one person she needed most in the world wasn’t there, any Amy couldn’t deny hating him a little for that fact.

One by one, the students received their diplomas. They smiled and shook hands with the Dean, and they all looked happy. Even if they were bored, they were happy.

“Alexander Charles Whitman.”

Alex was so busy waving his diploma in the air that he tripped and fell down the stairs as he was returning to his seat. A few people laughed, and a few people gasped. He got up, though, and shrugged it off, and everyone applauded him.

“Yea, Alex!” one girl—Amy couldn’t see her but assumed it was Isabel—yelled louder than everyone else. “I love you!”

“Kyle Duncan Valenti.”

Amy smiled and clapped for Kyle, well aware that she had been a little unfair to him over the years as well, often grouping him in the same category that she had grouped Michael. But now she knew that people didn’t belong in categories. She’d been wrong all these years.

“Woo!” Kyle’s girlfriend Tess hollered. Amy saw her lift up her shirt and do some kind of dance, but she honestly wasn’t surprised. The kids were entering adulthood, sure, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still untamed.

“Maria Elizabeth DeLuca.”

She looks so beautiful, Amy thought as her daughter walked up on stage and took her diploma from the dean, slowly shaking his hand. That’s my daughter. She felt proud. Despite all the bad things both she and Maria had done, she was proud to be her mother, proud to be back in her life.

Most of the people that cheered for Maria were males. Amy noticed it, the way they literally barked and howled at her like animals.

“Yeah, Maria! Ow-ow! Yeah!”

Amy clapped and clapped for her daughter, but she stopped clapping when she noticed something strange, something that set Maria apart from all the other students.

She wasn’t smiling.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria slowly staggered back to her seat, diploma in hand. She stared down at it, at the words written on it, but she couldn’t even read what it said. Or rather she wouldn’t. She didn’t want to. She didn’t care. This whole thing, graduating . . . it was a huge disappointment.

“Class salutatorian Maxwell Phillip Evans.”

She was just sitting down in her seat as Max received his diploma. He looked so proud, and he had good reason to be. He’d worked so hard. This wasn’t such a big let-down to him. Why was it such a let-down to her?

“My diploma’s prettier than yours,” Kyle teased.

She couldn’t even say anything back to him. All she could do was sit there and stare down at her diploma in disbelief, wondering to herself, Is this it? It wasn’t about the diploma necessarily, although that was underwhelming in its own right. It was about the fact that a huge part of her life was coming to an end, and he wasn’t there to share it with her . . . it would have been good if he were there . . .

“Class valedictorian Arlene Rose Ross.”

She tuned out the sound of applause and sat there in her own little world, confused, scared. Scared because, for the first time in her life, she felt . . . nothing. At all. In that dark moment, she truly felt empty, devoid of all passion, and she didn’t want to be that way. She wasn’t that person. That person wasn’t her.

It couldn’t just end like this. There had to be something more. There just had to be.

“And also graduating with the class of 2008, Michael Anthony Guerin.”

Maria winced as his ever-adoring fan-base clapped and cheered wildly for him, but no one walked up on stage to get his diploma. They would have to mail it to him, or . . .

It couldn’t just end. Not after everything.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael threw open the doors to the auditorium and walked in. It was dark, and there were so many people. Where was Maria? He had to find her. He looked for her for a moment, but he couldn’t . . . he couldn’t find her.

The Dean of the university was standing up on the stage behind the podium, addressing all the students. Michael didn’t know what else to do, so he walked towards him, towards the stage.

“I realize that both joy and nostalgia are probably in full-swing right about now, but I want you all to know that this isn’t the end of anything,” the Dean was saying. “This is only the beginning. On behalf of the university, I’d like to wish everyone luck in the adventures that lie ahead.”

Michael kept marching forward, faster now.

“And now if everyone will join me in offering praise and congratulations to the University of Santa Fe Class of--”

“No, wait!” Michael hollered, breaking into a run. “Stop!”









TBC . . .

-April ;)
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Re: Passion (M&M & CC/UC, AU, Adult, Pt. 126, 10/25/08, Pg. 18)

Post by April » Sat Oct 25, 2008 11:13 pm

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I wasn't expecting this in the slightest! I didn't even think I did that many cliffhangers, but apparently I do. Thanks to all who voted! :D

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Part 127

Post by April » Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:03 pm

Hey everyone! I know I'm evil for leaving it at that cliffhanger, but . . . well, it's fun to torture all of you! :lol: I have to go take a muy importante test this afternoon, so I don't have time to respond to you all individually, but thank you for the feedback:

Krista
chanks_girl
nibbles
Alien_Friend
starcrazed
Morgan8
Christina
Ashley
Rowedog (a new feedbacker after all this time? Awesome!)
art_junkie
killjoy
spacegirl23
Sara

As hard as it is to believe . . . this fic is VERY near the end. And when I say that, I'm basically saying that this is the second to the last part. :( But that's probably a good thing. :)


Why not get musical one last time? One of my favorite songs is Ray Lamontagne's "Within You," so try giving it a listen when you see the :) smiley. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMujjMfWf9U&fmt=18








Part 127








Maria’s entire body went tense. All her nerves stood on end, and for a moment, she thought she’d gone completely crazy. But when she looked up and saw him racing down the aisle and up to the stage, shock engulfed her. It was him. It was really him. He was really . . .

What was he doing there?

With wide eyes, she watched as he climbed up onto the stage. The emptiness that she had been feeling just a moment ago immediately became occupied with all sorts of turbulent emotions: love, hate, anger, frustration, sadness, joy, passion . . . it all came crashing back into her, and she was herself again. And she was happy to see him. But at the same time . . .

What was he doing there?

“Hi,” Michael said to the Dean. “Could you just . . . move?”

The Dean appeared taken aback. “Excuse me?”

“Just get outta my way,” Michael said, urging him aside. He stood behind the podium then as though he had actually earned the right to give some kind of speech and looked out on the crowd of students. And then he said her name into the microphone. “Maria?”

Her heart skipped a beat, and she pinched her thigh to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Because this didn’t feel real. Him showing up right before the graduation ceremony came to an end . . .

What was he doing there?

Everyone turned to look at her expectantly. She didn’t know what to do, so she slowly stood up. Michael’s eyes fell on her, too. Their gazes locked. They looked into each other’s eyes for the first time in . . . well, only days, but it was still powerful. She’d never realized how much she missed just seeing him until now.

He smiled at her and said, “Ah, there she is. There’s my dirty girl.”

She smiled inwardly upon hearing him call her that, but she was too stubborn to show it outwardly. Still . . .

What on earth was he doing there? Somewhere out there was a porn movie minus one intern. Had he planned this? She glanced down at Kyle, but he just shrugged. Apparently he was just as surprised to see Michael as she was.

“I-I didn’t tell anyone I was coming,” he said as if reading her mind. “I just . . . came.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Not like that.” He grinned. “Not recently.”

Well, she thought. That’s . . . good to know. At least he hadn’t hooked up with some porno bimbo after she’d left.

“Wow,” he said, “there’s, uh, a lot of people here. And then there’s me, standin’ up here under the spotlight. Stage fright, kinda.”

The Dean came up to him, placed one hand over the microphone, and said something to him that Maria couldn’t hear. Michael removed his hand and said, “No, I hope you guys don’t mind, but there’s some stuff I gotta say. Right here. Right now. I know I’m not at the top of the class or anything, so it’s not like I’m gonna give a smart person’s speech.” He glanced back at Max and said, “Sorry I missed your speech, man. Someone will Youtube it, though, right?”

Max shrugged.

“Well, whatever,” was Michael’s response. “I mean, not whatever, but . . . I got more important things on my mind right now.” He smiled at Maria and then said to the rest of the people gathered there, “I’m not good at . . . being romantic. Or giving speeches. And now I’m gonna attempt to do both, so bear with me, alright?” He looked at Maria again and asked, “Alright?”

She nodded slowly, willing to hear him out. He had to have a good reason for being there.

“Okay. Good.” He licked his lips, seeming . . . nervous? Was it possible for Michael Guerin to be nervous about something? “I didn’t really plan this out,” he admitted.

She was happy he hadn’t. Nothing was ever planned between the two of them.

“Shit,” he cursed, scratching his eyebrow. “What I’m about to do is either gonna reinforce my reputation as coolest guy on this campus or demolish it, but to be honest, I don’t really care. ‘Cause there’s some stuff I gotta say to you, and I should’ve said it a long time ago. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long. You know, to say it.”

She gave him a look of confusion. What exactly was he saying, because . . . he wasn’t saying it.

“I suck at this,” he realized as a few people laughed at his lack of eloquence. “Alright, when you last saw me . . . I was screwed up. I’d just gotten to L.A., just started the internship . . . I didn’t know what the fuck was goin’ on between the two of us. Oh, shit, should I not say fuck? There’s probably kids here. Well, fuck, I just said shit. Dammit.”

Maria laughed a little and asked him, “When did you become a blubbering idiot?”

“What?”

She spoke up louder so that she could hear him. “When did you become a blubbering idiot?”

“What?” he asked again. “Everybody shut up. I can’t hear my girl.”

The whole auditorium fell silent.

“Never mind,” she said. “Go on.”

He nodded. “Going on. Uh . . . okay, I left Santa Fe. And it was stupid. And then I let you leave L.A., and that was even stupider.” He made a face. “Stupider? More stupid?” He glanced back at Max for clarification.

“More stupid,” Max said.

“Right, more stupid,” Michael amended. “But like I said, I was just . . . I was all over the place, Maria. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been all over the place for awhile now. ‘Cause I . . . I started feeling things for you, and that pretty much scared the hell out of me ‘cause you’re my best friend. You’re the only person I’ve ever really . . . I’m closer to you than anyone else, and I didn’t want anything to change that. I thought, if we tried to get closer, we might end up getting farther apart.”

She hung her head and muttered, “We did.”

“I didn’t hear what you just said, but no, we didn’t.”

She lifted her head again, thinking that he knew her so well. He didn’t even have to hear her to know what she was saying.

“Now I’ve seen the best and the worst of you,” he went on, “and you’ve seen the best and the worst of me. Actually, you might just be seeing the best right now, so cherish it.” He smiled. “Are you cherishing?”

She shrugged.

“Do it,” he said. “You’re gonna wanna look back someday and remember what I’m saying and how hot I looked saying it.”

She rolled her eyes.

“See? I’m still the same guy. You’re still the same girl. We’re still the same people, Maria.”

“No, we’re not.”

He must have heard that, because he was silent for a moment before he agreed, “No, we’re not. But we’re not that different. We may have grown up . . . a little. We may have changed . . . also just a little. But I bet we could still argue for hours about who gets to sleep in that master bedroom.”

“It’s my bedroom,” she insisted for the umpteenth time.

“Or here’s a thought: maybe we could just sleep in it together.”

A couple of people in the audience let out an “Ooh” in response to that suggestion.

Michael shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time. Hey, you know want to know what else?”

She really did.

“I bet we could still steal Stallone’s nose from that wax museum in Vegas.” He chuckled and then lied to the rest of the people there. “Not that we ever did.”

She smiled a little, remembering.

“I bet we could still win a whipped cream bikini contest, don’t you?”

“You tied!” Kyle shouted out.

“Well, we’d win this time,” Michael said confidently. “I know you could still make me go crazy if you, quote/unquote, “dressed up” as a nudist again.”

She blushed, and a few guys around her said, “I remember that.”

“And if we have time, do you think we could still manage to disrespect an entire church by having fake sex in the sound room? ‘Cause I think we could.”

Maria covered her face with her hand and sneaked a glance up at her mom. Amy was shaking her head, but smiling as well.

“Or maybe it wouldn’t have to be fake sex this time,” Michael pondered aloud. “Whoa, that wasn’t G-rated, was it? Sorry, kids in attendance.”

Screw the kids, Maria thought. She wanted to hear whatever he had to say.

“I can’t help it. Sometimes my mind just goes to these places.” He laughed a little. “I bet you’re asking yourself, ‘What mind? Michael has a mind?’ I’ll admit, I haven’t put it to the best use lately. I’ve been . . . kind of a dumb-ass.”

Kind of a dumb-ass?” she echoed in disbelief. “Michael . . . understatement.”

“Fine, understatement.”

“Of the century.”

“Okay, but . . . dumb-ass, right? That’s what you’ve always called me.”

She shrugged. “Dumb-ass. Jackass. Ass-hat. Ass-face. Asshole. Just ass in general. Or, you know, all of the above.”

He laughed and said, “I guess I deserve that. I’ve been a jerk. But in all fairness, you haven’t been that easy, either, and I swear to fuckin’ God—oh, shit, can we bleep that out? I swear to God, if anyone out there’s thinkin’ you’re easy right now, they’re wrong. ‘Cause you’re not. Maria, you’re the most complex, confusing, completely crazy person I know . . . and I can’t get enough of you.”

She took in a sharp breath, starting to get really impressed with him now. She wished she could just stand there and be angry at him, but she couldn’t do that; because she was too busy being happy to see him and liking what he was saying. Plus, the fact that he was saying it in front of all these people and not holding back . . .

“Eight years, Maria,” he said. “Eight years, and I’m still never bored with you. I still wish I could be around you 24/7. I still look at you, and I can’t think straight ‘cause . . . I mean, look at you.”

She glanced down at herself and blushed again.

“You’re rockin’ the blue-screen blue,” he informed her. “It takes every ounce of strength I have not to just go down there and . . .” He trailed off, paused for a moment, then said, “In case you can’t tell, I’m censoring myself right now.”

“Pervert,” she teased.

“Hey, I just got off the set of Cum-Hungry Coeds. If you thought I was perverted before . . .”

“I just don’t understand,” she mumbled.

“What? I can’t hear you very well up here.”

“I don’t understand,” she repeated more audibly. “Why did you leave?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Why did you leave after you . . . said what you said to me in the hotel?”

I love you. That’s what she’d said. “Because you let me.”

“Because I’m a dumb-ass. See, we already covered this? But maybe it was a good thing, us takin’ some time apart. Not too much time, but just a little time . . . ‘cause if I hadn’t left, if I hadn’t been away from you, I might not have had this . . . well, it was kinda like an epiphany.”

“You’re kidding.” That was so cheesy.

“No. Come on, I looked hot in the midst of my epiphany,” he assured her.

She rolled her eyes yet again.

“It just dawned on me that I was fuckin’ miserable there. I missed you, and I couldn’t stop thinking about you, and all I wanted was to be around you again. So here I am. Around you.”

All around her. She really wanted to just be mad at him. She was really failing in that sense.

“I don’t know if you’re over me, if you want me in your life anymore or not,” he went on. “I don’t blame you if you don’t, but I hope you do. Because I wanna be in your life, Maria.”

“For how long?” she asked.

“Pretty much forever,” he answered without hesitation, causing her heart to flutter again. “I wanna be your best friend, ‘cause you’re still my best friend. And I wanna be your . . . boyfriend.” He smiled. “Sounds corny, but it’s true. I’m kind of a selfish bastard; I want it all.”

She wanted it all, too.

“I can’t promise you that it’s all gonna be easy. There’s gonna be days when you feel like killing me, so I’ll kindly ask that you refrain.”

She’d refrained for eight years.

“I can’t promise that I’m never gonna be a dumb-ass again, because we both know I will. That’s just me, and I gotta be me. And I want you to be you, alright, which means, you’re gonna have to be a raging bitch sometimes.”

She smiled. No problem there.

“You’re gonna have to be horny for me sometimes—scratch that—all the time.”

People laughed.

“That’s not too much to ask, is it?” He smiled. “Baby . . .”

She closed her eyes, tensing up again as he said that. But this time it was a good kind of tense. Baby. She loved it when he called her that, and it felt like he hadn’t said it for so long.

“What?” he asked. “I say something wrong?”

“Something right,” she whispered.

“What was that?”

“Something right,” she spoke up.

His face registered pure shock. “Something right? You mean, I-I did something . . . I did something right? I said something right?” He grunted in disbelief. “Wow, we should throw a damn parade or something.”

“Yeah,” she agreed.

“And in this parade, maybe there could be a marching band, and fire trucks, and floats. Oh, and banners, too, and one of those banners could say I love you, Maria.”

She literally stopped breathing and stood completely still. Did he just say . . .

“I always have.”

He did. Holy crap.

She just stood there and stared at him, shell-shocked. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, and her mind was racing. Yet, she couldn’t manage to form a coherent thought. What was up with that?

She couldn’t do anything, couldn’t say anything. All she could do was stand there in silence, motionless, stunned. Ironically, she now knew what it felt like to be Michael. He had reacted the same way when she’d said . . .

God, did he really mean it? Did he really love her? Of course he did. He wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it. Michael was a lot more honest than her. But still . . . he’d never said those words before. Ever. To anyone. She’d begun to think that he never would, but now . . .

Holy crap.

“Unbelievable,” he said. “You choose now of all times to not say anything?” He grunted, smiling. “Serves me right, I guess. But I do. I love you.”

She couldn’t stop the slow smile that formed on her face, nor did she want to. He really . . . he really loved her. More notably . . . it was really obvious.

“Oh my god,” she said, hiding her face and her smile from him.

“What?” he asked.

She shook her head, wondering why it had never occurred to her before. All the times they’d talked and laughed together, all the time they’d spent together, all the insults and jabs they’d thrown at each other, all the sparks they created together . . . of course he loved her. And clearly she loved him. It wasn’t a complex issue, not really. In fact, it wasn’t an issue at all. It was a good thing. It wasn’t something they needed to deny or hide or worry about. They loved each other. They were best friends who loved each other. What could be wrong with that?

“What, Maria?” he asked again.

So simple, she thought. She understood now had it was all so very simple, how she’d complicated it with her lies and him with his stupidity, how they’d both made things a lot harder on themselves with their stubbornness. But it was simple. And it was amazing.

“Was it . . . something I said?”

She returned her gaze to his and smiled at him, deciding that, even though it was simple and amazing, she could still mess with him a little bit. Playful games were what she and Michael did best. “What if I don’t believe you?” she asked.

“You don’t believe me?” he echoed. “What? No. You bitch.”

She laughed.

“I profess my undying love to you, and you don’t believe me?”

She shrugged, playing along.

“Well, what do I have to do? I’ll do it,” he promised. “What do I have to do to get you to believe me?”

Oh, this was too good to be true! Michael was up on a stage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people. He could be so embarrassed so easily.

“Well,” she said, “there is one thing you could do.”

“Name it. I’ll do it.”

She grinned devilishly and said, “Sing Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy,’ and do a sexy dance.”

“My theme song? No problem.” He didn’t even hesitate, just cleared his throat and started in singing. “I’m too sexy for my shirt. Too sexy for my shirt. So sexy it hurts.” He graciously popped open two buttons of his shirt and hiked it up past his stomach before letting it fall down again. Everyone laughed and clapped, and it was likely that some freshman girls fainted.

Maria laughed, too, but she wasn’t don’t with him just yet. “More dancing,” she instructed. “Do a shimmy.”

“What?”

“If you love me, you’ll do it.”

He sighed in resignation and said, “Fine. Do I have to keep singing?”

“Yeah.”

“Fuck,” he swore before he started singing again. “I’m too sexy for your party. Too sexy for your party. No way I’m disco dancing.” He did a very awkward shimmy each time he said ‘for your party,’ and even treated everyone to a few disco arm movements at the end. Everyone began to laugh uncontrollably, and Maria had to fight to keep control of herself. He looked so ridiculous, but he was so determined.

“Keep going?” he asked.

She nodded.

He groaned in frustration and sang some more, still dancing. “I’m a model, you know what I mean, and I do my little turn on the catwalk.”

Tears brought on by laughter sprang to Maria’s eyes as everyone around her just whooped and hollered. Kyle was on the floor laughing, Max was about to tip out of his chair, and even the Dean was slapping his knee in delight.

Michael just kept going. “Yeah, on the catwalk, on the catwalk, yeah, I shake my little tush on the catwalk.”

“Shake your tush!” she shouted over all the laughter.

He rolled his eyes, turned around and did just that. Bubbly laughter turned into screaming laughter, and Maria decided he was the biggest dork on the planet. Period.

He glanced over his shoulder as he was obediently shaking his tush and must have caught the look in her eyes, because he stopped dancing and realized what she was doing. “Wait a minute, are you messin’ with me?”

“You think?”

He shook his head and smiled. “Such a bitch.”

Such an idiot,” she mimicked.

He stood behind the podium, red with embarrassment but apparently not too torn up about it, and waited for the noise to die down. Once it was mostly quiet again, he said, “Well, that was fun. I love a little public humiliation as much as the next guy, but can I be serious for a minute?”

She shrugged. “Two minutes, if you want.”

He chuckled and asked, “You wanna know what I love about you?”

She got a little more serious, too, then, and replied, “Sure.”

He waited a moment, and when he spoke again, it was exactly what she wanted to hear. “Everything.”

:)

Her heart started speeding up again in romantic anticipation.

“Come up here,” he said, motioning her towards the stage.

She smiled a bit unsurely and slowly stepped out into the aisle and made her way up to the stage.

“I love the way you laugh,” he told her as she neared him. “I love the way you think. I love the way secretly really enjoy hearing about my monster cock. But then again, who doesn’t?”

She tried to resist rolling her eyes as she kept moving forward, but she couldn’t do it. He was so obnoxious, so full of himself, so . . . Michael Guerin.

“I love how you always do that, roll your eyes at me and try not to smile, pretend you’re annoyed, but you’re not.”

No. She really wasn’t.

“I love how you yell at me. I love how you dance. I love that you’re adventurous, and you never get boring. I love the fact that you’re just you. You don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, and you don’t make excuses for who you are.” He smiled, admitted, “And you’re pretty hot to look at, too.”

She blushed and made her way up the steps and onto the stage, her skin heating up with every step she took towards him.

“But most of all, I love that you’re my friend,” he finished up when she was merely feet away from him. “You’re the greatest, truest, and without a doubt hottest friend I have, and I can’t do this whole life thing without you. I don’t want to.”

She felt tears of joy stinging her eyes as he said that. She stepped right up next to him, right behind the podium and smelled his familiar scent, felt his radiating body heat, got lost in his warm brown eyes.

“I’m so in love with you,” he whispered, reaching out to stroke her hair.

“Me, too,” she whispered in reply as a tear leaked over onto her cheek. “With you. And me.”

He laughed a little and trailed his hand down to press his fingertips against her palm before clasping her hand securely in his. Then he just stared at her and smiled for a moment, the two of them up there on that big stage, in front of all those people, underneath that bright spotlight . . . and it was just the two of them. Michael and Maria.

“Michael--”

His lips were pressed against hers in an instant, kissing her almost before she could comprehend it; and she had no desire to do anything but kiss him back, much like their first kiss. She smiled at the sign of his lips’ hello and faintly registered the sounds of applause coming from the rest of the people in the auditorium, but only faintly; because Michael was an amazing kisser.

His hands settled in the curve of her waist, pulling her body closer to his as their mouths mated. She gladly melted into him, and in the midst of her melting, the Dean squeezed in beside them, leaned over to speak into the microphone, and said, “Congratulations to the Class of 2008.”

Maria and Michael kept kissing as the other students hollered with delight, stood up, moved the tassels on their hats from the right side to the left, and then threw those hats in the air to signify the end of an era, their graduation. It wasn’t until her hat poked Michael in the face that Maria realized she had to do the same.

She took a step back, laughing, feeling happy for the first time in what felt like a long time, and saw that he looked happy, too. It was in his eyes as he gazed down at her, the love, the love that had finally pushed through the denial, and somewhere deep inside, she knew that this would last forever. How could it not? They were Michael and Maria. They always would be. And Michael and Maria couldn’t not be together. It just wasn’t possible. She got that now.

He moved her tassel over to the left side of her hat for her, and then she reached up and took it off, throwing it as high up into the air as she could. She watched as it fell back down, seemingly slowly, and landed right next to Max’s feet. When she looked at him, he looked happy, too. Happy for them, happy for himself.

She and Michael both glanced out at the rest of the student body. Most were jumping around and celebrating their own graduation. Kyle and Alex were smiling at them, and so were Isabel, Tess, and Liz from their positions up in the balcony seats. Her mother was smiling, tearing up, even, and if it was possible, even Diane and Phillip Evans looked glad that they had finally gotten together.

She returned her gaze to Michael then, wondering if maybe she should pinch herself, because this was just so fairy tale, and fairy tale things didn’t happen to her. But it was real. She knew it was real, because it always had been.

He grinned in that typical Michael Guerin fashion, and then said, “That was a sexy speech, wasn’t it?”

She smiled, rolled her eyes, and shook her head in her typical Maria DeLuca fashion and said, “Shut up,” before standing up on her tiptoes to kiss him again. He picked her up off her feet and whirled the two of them around as he kissed her, loved her, and made her feel truly happy for the first time in her life, all on their graduation day.








TBC . . .

-April :D
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Part 128

Post by April » Wed Oct 29, 2008 12:57 pm

Well, here we are. I never thought it would happen, but we've reached the end of this fic. Once you read this last part, you'll have read 1,395 pages. :shock: I know. Crazy, right?

I just wanted to let you all know that I have never enjoyed writing and posting a fic so much. Your feedback often became the highlight of my day. I hope that you're happy with the direction this story took; maybe it even managed to surprise you once in awhile along the way. ;) Thank you for sticking with it, even through the rough spots (*cough* Chapter 29 *cough*). I'm really going to miss posting updates, but I guess now I'll have more time to work on my new fic. Which is a good thing.

One more thing before I post the last part . . . I made this video as a thank you to EVERYONE who has ever left feedback, whether it was after every single part (which some of you actually managed to do!) or just once. (If I forgot anyone, I apologize, but I think I came pretty close to getting everyone.) Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol6WkWL8Cwk&fmt=18 (I don't even know if you can read what it says. Youtube sucked all the quality out of my vid!)










Part 128








Man, I never wanna let this girl go.

Michael stood behind Maria with his arms around her stomach, holding her in front of him. She reached out, turned the doorknob, and pushed open the door to their house. “Home sweet home,” she said.

Sure, it was nice to be back in their town, back in their house, but the best part about all of this was being back with her. “You have no idea how good it feels to be back here,” he told her, bending down to press a kiss against the side of her neck. She smelled incredible.

“About half as good as it feels to have you back here,” she informed him as she stepped into the house. He walked behind her, still holding his arms around her, still not wanting to let her go. When they were apart . . . it just wasn’t good. He knew that now.

“I was so dreading living here alone,” she admitted.

“Well, now you don’t have to.” He grinned and whispered in her ear, “And now it’s just the two of us here.”

She spun around in his arms and remarked, “Ooh, the sexy possibilities.” She giggled then, and they kissed, but just as he was thinking the kiss was going to lead them into the bedroom, she placed her hands on his chest and pushed him away from her slightly. “Wait a minute, go back,” she said. “Go back.”

“What?” He was confused.

“Back outside,” she elaborated, pushing him in that direction. She shoved him back out onto their doorstep and went outside with him. She looked excited when she proclaimed, “We should do a threshold thing.”

“A what?” He was still confused.

“A threshold thing,” she repeated. “A couple does it when they either a) get married, or b) share a very romantic time together. Let’s face it, Guerin: this is the most romantic it’s ever gonna get for us.”

“Oh, yeah?” He chuckled. “You think the euphoria’s gonna wear off and you’re gonna go back to hating my guts?”

“Oh, I still hate your guts,” she informed him. “You still annoy me, and I’m still plotting your slow and painful death as we speak. So that’s why we need to do a threshold thing now before I actually kill you.”

He laughed and shook his head. “Crazy. Alright, what do I have to do?”

“Just pick me up in your manly arms and carry me across the threshold into our messy yet cozy abode.”

"Abode?"

"Yes."

Sounded easy enough. “Okay, I can do that.” He bent down, placed one hand underneath her knees and the other around her back and hoisted her up into his arms. She laughed happily, and he said, “Here we go!” as he took a step into the house.

“Ow!” she yelped when her head hit the side of the doorway.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “Sorry, you okay?”

“Dumb-ass!”

He laughed and carried her in safely this time. “Sorry about that. That’s harder than it looks.”

“I could be concussed!” she exclaimed dramatically. “What if you concussed me?”

“Oh, my plan all along,” he joked as he kicked the front door shut with his foot. “I was gonna do dirty things to you while you were unconscious.” He set her back down on her own two feet in the middle of the living room.

“Oh,” she said. “Well, I’d rather be awake for that.”

Oh, that’s my girl, he thought, liking the look he saw in her eyes. She looked like she felt . . . horny. And that worked out well, because he felt that way constantly. He encircled his arms around her waist again and pulled her in close to him, mating his mouth to hers, mentally mapping out the quickest way to get her naked and show her just how much he loved her.

“Mmm,” she murmured between kisses, “do you think I forgave you too easily?”

“Easily?” he echoed.

“Yeah. I mean, I was furious with you when you left for L.A. And then I was even more furious when you stayed there. And then when I got back here, I was, like, a combination of furious, sad, and just plain pissed. But then you barge into graduation, all last-minute Prince Charming, and I go weak in the knees.”

He grinned. “Your knees are weak?”

She smiled. “Just a little.”

“Well, that would explain the whole threshold thing.”

“I’m serious, Michael. I don’t want you to feel like you can just do something stupid and get away with it . . . even though you always do.”

“No, I don’t feel that way,” he assured her. “It didn’t seem so easy to me. You made me do that song and dance.”

“Your fault. You’re gullible. I took immense pleasure in it.”

“I’m sure you did.” He reached down in between them and undid a couple of buttons on his shirt again, re-enacting his performance. “I’m too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my--”

“Michael,” she cut in, pulling back a little. “Hold up a minute. Do you really just wanna be slaves to the passion?”

That sounded good to him. “Uh, yeah,” he answered simply. He leaned in to kiss her again, but she held her hand out, stopping him.

“I’m just saying, if we start having sex now, we’re never gonna be able to stop.”

Well, that sounded even better. “Yeah, I’m okay with that.” He leaned in again to try to kiss her, but she held him back much the same.

“Michael.”

“Baby, I’m like the Energizer Bunny,” he reminded her. “I just keep goin’ and goin’ and goin’.”

“I just think that we should . . . be smart about this.”

He wrinkled his forehead in confusion and echoed the word as though he had no understanding of it. “Smart?”

“Yeah. Like maybe we should not have sex just yet and do something else instead.”

“But we’ve had sex before,” he pointed out.

“And it resulted in badness.”

He grunted. “Felt like a pretty good result to me.”

She gave him a look. “I’m not talking about the pleasure moment. I’m talking about the waking up afterwards. You see, I tend to be alone during that part, and fighting ensues.”

“But it’s different this time.”

“I know,” she said, reaching up to run her fingers through his hair. “I know it is. I just . . . I think we should hold off.”

Is she serious? he wondered in disbelief. She can’t be serious. But if she was . . . “Okay,” he said. If that was really what she wanted, to take things . . . slow . . . hell, wasn’t eight years slow enough, though?

“Okay,” she said, taking a few steps back from him. “Good, we’re on the same page. Now, do you mind if I get out of this graduation robe? I really can’t stand it anymore, and it’s so . . .” She pulled the heavy robe up and over her head and tossed it onto the floor. “Hot,” she finished, standing before him then in only the dress she was wearing underneath the robe. Short. Tight. White and strapless. The very sight of it sent a message straight to his already enthusiastic cock.

“Nice dress,” he said, beginning to sense the game she was playing. “Or underwear, in some cultures.”

“Thanks,” she said, smiling flirtatiously. It was becoming quite obvious to him that she didn’t really want to be ‘smart’ about this. She was just like him.

“So,” he said, playing along, “if you don’t wanna have sex, what do you wanna do?”

“I didn’t say I don’t wanna have sex,” she reminded him. “I said I don’t think we should.”

“So what should we do?”

“Well . . . maybe we could watch some TV,” she said, picking up the remote control. She sat down on the couch, turned the television on, and asked him, “You want to?”

He let his eyes wander all over her, over those long dancer legs, and answered honestly, “Not so much.”

“Are you sure?” she said, lying down on her back. She stretched her arms above her head and looked at him sexily, sultrily. It took everything he had not to pounce on her and ravage her like a maniac.

“‘Cause there’s great shows,” she went on, sliding one leg inward to bend at the knee. She alternated then, straightening out her legs and bending them, squirming all around on the couch, her dress hiking up. “Great shows like Tila Tequila and Deal or No Deal. They need to be watched, and I think we should make them a priority.” When she lifted both her knees, he caught sight of the fact that she wasn’t wearing an panties beneath her tiny dress. Or if she was, they were too small for the eye to see. Either way, it was hot as hell, and he had to tug on his jeans to loosen them.

“No TV?” she asked innocently.

He shook his head. “No TV.”

“Alright, then.” She sat back up, and he groaned at the loss of the view. She turned the television off, stood up and continued to play her game. “Well, golly, what else could we possibly do in this big old house of ours where no one else lives anymore? I wonder . . .”

He smiled, enjoying this. It was like foreplay to foreplay.

“We could eat,” she suggested suddenly.

“Alright,” he said, imagining himself with his head between her legs. “Let’s talk eating.”

“Are you hungry?” she asked him, heading towards the kitchen.

“Oh, yeah.”

She stopped, glanced back over her shoulder again, and said, “Maybe I should feed you.”

Hearing her say that, he had to close his eyes and will his hand not to start pumping his cock. She was driving him mad with desire. But then again, she always did.

“What are you in the mood for?” she asked him, heading towards he refrigerator.

“Not food,” he told her.

“Are you sure?” She pulled open the refrigerator and bent down to peer inside, purposefully sticking her ass out in the air. Again, he could see what was—or rather wasn’t—underneath her dress, and he got even more turned on. “‘Cause we’ve got some good food in here,” she went on. “Eggs and potatoes and strawberries. And yummy cheese.” She glanced back at him over her shoulder again and said, “You don’t want any of those things?”

“You know what I want,” he said grinning.

“Yeah.” She shut the refrigerator door and stood up straight again. “I want it, too.”

He slowly sauntered toward her, making no effort to hide the bulge in his jeans. Hell, he wanted her to see it. She was the one who’d made it.

She ran her hand across their marble countertop and gave him a mischievous look. “Remember the counter?”

“How could I forget?” The only thing that had been wrong about making out with her atop that counter had been the betrayal aspect. But now, Max and Liz were happy. Everyone was happy, so they didn’t have to feel bad about anything.

She hopped up on the counter and kicked her high-heeled shoes off. Then she reached out her foot and, once he was close enough, hooked her big toe in one of his belt loops and pulled him closer to her.

“You know, I’m starting to rethink my whole take-it-slow strategy,” she admitted. “In fact, now I think we should probably just get naked and sweaty and smooshy together.”

“You really have a way with words,” he told her as he stepped in between her legs. She wrapped those legs around his waist and her arms around his neck and pulled him in closer yet. She was such a . . . vixen.

“Wanna smoosh?” she asked, smiling.

“Constantly.”

“Oh, thank God.” She pulled on his shirt, bringing his face in closer to his and was about to kiss him when he said something to stop her.

“On one condition.”

She frowned. “Condition? There’s conditions to our naked sweatiness now?”

“Just this once.”

She looked confused.

“Admit that my speech was a very sexy speech,” he said.

She made a face. “What?”

“Yeah, come on.”

“Why?”

“Maria, I’ve been workin’ for a director who couldn’t give a compliment to save his life. I need my ego stroked.”

“Oh.” She slipped her hands down between them to undo his jeans and said, “I think you need something else stroked more.”

It took everything he had to grab her hands and make her stop what she was doing. “Not until you say it,” he said stubbornly.

“What exactly do I have to say?”

“Just say, ‘Michael, that was a sexy speech.’”

She sighed heavily and looked him right in the eye. “Michael.”

He slowly let go of her hands.

She hooked her fingers into his belt loops and mumbled quietly, “It was a sexy speech.”

He grinned, happy to hear that, and tried to give her that ever-elusive kiss, but she pulled back at last minute and added, “But only because it was about me.”

Bitch. She was a stubborn, crazy, outrageous bitch, and she was his girlfriend. And his best friend. Everything.

God, he loved her.

“Ah, come here,” he growled, unable to resist her any longer. She laughed as he swooped her up off the counter and carried her into the bedroom to make love to her all over again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Wow, that was some ceremony, wasn’t it?” Tess said as she and Kyle returned home that afternoon.

“It sure was,” Kyle agreed, setting his robe down on the couch. “A little long.”

“I totally fell asleep,” Tess admitted. “I woke up to see you get your diploma, though. Did you see my topless dance?”

“Of course I saw. Highlight of the whole ceremony. Ask anyone.”

“Good. You know, I bet Arlene Ross is fuming right now because her speech is gonna be the only one people won’t remember tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah. Max’s speech was really good. You know, I didn’t expect him to do an impromptu thing, but I’m glad he did.”

“Yeah. And then of course, Michael . . .”

Kyle grunted, unable to keep from smiling at the thought of two of his best friends finally being more than that. “About time those two crazy kids got it together, don’t you think?”

“Definitely,” Tess agreed emphatically. “I like to think we did our part. I mean, you dropped millions of subtle hints over the years, and I came up with Maria’s nudist costume for that party awhile back.”

“Very effective.”

She smiled. “Thank you.”

“Tess, you’re pretty much the smartest person I know,” he told her.

Right,” she said, clearly not believing him.

“No, you are.” He picked up her hands and held them in his. “I think a lot of times you don’t get the credit you deserve. People look at you and think you’re just a pretty face. And a hot body. Which, of course, you are that. But I’m so grateful I’ve gotten to know you inside and out.”

She smirked. “You do know my insides.”

“You know what I mean.”

She nodded. “I know.”

“And . . . I don’t know. I know college is ending—or actually, it’s already over . . . for me, anyway. But in a way, it feels like everything’s just beginning, you know, like we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us and we can do whatever the hell we want with ‘em. And I just wanna say some of this stuff before my dad gets here and starts telling me how proud he is—we actually might have time for a quickie. He drives like a senior citizen.”

She giggled.

“But seriously, Tess, I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you, to be your husband, to . . . I don’t know, make babies with you someday, have our babies fight and play with Michael and Maria’s babies.”

She laughed again.

“I just think you don’t really know how much you mean to me,” he said. “And I don’t even know why I’m sayin’ all this stuff. I’m not really a touchy-feely guy, but when I’m around you . . . I feel touched and I feel you, and now that I’m sayin’ it out loud, I realize it sounds a lot like sex, but it’s not just that. You know it’s not. It’s . . . it’s the fact that you’re the one for me, and I wouldn’t even wanna be alive because I couldn’t be alive if I wasn’t the one for you.”

She smiled up at him, looking a bit surprised to hear him being so vocal about his feelings, and said, “Kyle?”

“Yeah?”

“I think you just wrote your vows.”

He thought about it for a moment and realized . . . it was true. He probably had.

“Come here.” He swooped her up into his arms and whirled her around.

She laughed and said, “Oh, I wish we were already on our honeymoon!”

“Oh, that’s gonna be so good,” he agreed, already fantasizing about the hours on end they could spend in bed.

“I know!” Her jubilant laughter resounded throughout the room.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Okay, so after dinner, Max and Liz are gonna go back to their place and . . .” Isabel trailed off.

“And do what?” Alex asked as they made their way through the parking lot towards the restaurant.

“Use your imagination.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’m using it. I’m arriving at sex. My imagination’s not goin’ anywhere else.”

“Well, it seems likely,” Isabel acknowledged as they walked into the restaurant. “I was getting a vibe, sort of a ‘we-just-got-pelvic-isn’t-that-nice?’ kind of vibe.”

“Good for them,” Alex said. “Way to rebound.”

“I don’t think it’s just a rebound. But I guess we’ll find out over dinner, won’t we?”

“Yep. You see your parents?”

Isabel peered into the restaurant and shook her head. “Nope. You see yours?”

“No, they couldn’t make it in today. They’re coming in tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Yeah, that works for you, right?”

She sighed. “Yeah. Kinda sucks, though. My parents are staying with us tonight. You parents, I assume, are staying with us tomorrow night.”

“Sex does not seem to be on the menu for us, does it?”

She shrugged. “Nope. As soon as these parents are gone, though, we go wild.”

“Sounds good.”

“And actually, it’s okay anyway, because I have a feeling hormones are gonna be running rampant in Santa Fe tonight. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up tomorrow morning and find out that Michael Jr., Max Jr., and Kyle Jr. were conceived.”

“Whoa. You think?”

“No. But it’s still a horny, horny town right now, and I’m jealous.”

“Well . . .” He pondered it, thinking of his apartment, the thickness of the walls, the spacing of the rooms. “Maybe if we were just very, very quiet . . .”

“Izzy!”

He stopped talking about that immediately when a woman, apparently Isabel’s mother, rushed up to her and hugged her. “Then we could fall asleep,” he finished. “Because it’s always easier to fall asleep when you’re . . . quiet.” He chuckled.

A man who had to be her father came up and extended his hand for handshake. “You must be Alex. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Oh, yeah, Mom, Dad, meet my man,” Isabel said with a laugh. “This is Alex Whitman. Alex, this is my mom Diane and my dad Phillip.”

“Nice to meet you,” Alex said.

“Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing,” Diane said, pinching his cheek as though he were a grandchild.

“Mom,” Isabel groaned.

“What? He’s cute, Isabel. You’re very cute, Alex.”

“Um . . . thank you.” He wasn’t sure what else to say to that.

“It’s a good thing,” Phillip informed him. “Her reaction to Kyle was, ‘he’s the devil.’”

“Oh.” Alex nodded. “Okay, I’ll take cute.”

Diane smiled, leaned over and said to Isabel, just loud enough that Alex could overhear, “I like this boy already, sweetie.”

Isabel smiled at him, setting his heart on fire the way she always did, and said, “I like him, too.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Liz wasn’t sure whether she should say something to Max about their little . . . interlude before graduation. He’d definitely made it clear during his speech that he had feelings for her, and now she knew that she had definite falling-in-love types of feelings for him. And what with having sex and all, there’d been actual feeling. But were they supposed to talk about it?

They drove to the restaurant mainly talking about Michael and Maria, how surprisingly great it was that they were finally together. Max said he didn’t even feel jealous or angry anymore. Just hopeful. Hopeful that they were going to all be better friends than they had been before and that they would finally just all be happy. No more lies, no more denial, no more heartbreak. Liz mainly just smiled and nodded. She would have said more, but she couldn’t think straight around him right now. Max really had no idea how desirable he was.

When they walked into the restaurant, she spied Mr. and Mrs. Evans right away. They were already sitting at a table with Isabel and Alex, talking.

“Funny,” she remarked. “They look like the same old parents.”

“No, I think they’re really different now,” he insisted. “I’ve spoken to them on the phone a few times since Maria and I broke up, and they’ve been . . . dare I say it? They’ve been nice. Supportive. Kind of the way parents should be.”

Liz smiled. She never would have thought that the adults would work things out with their kids and the kids would work things out with each other. Yet somehow . . .

“Max!”

She stopped thinking when she heard Isabel shout Max’s name. She waved them over to the table.

“I’d say brace yourself,” Max said, “but I don’t think you need to. My parents like you. You’re not Maria.”

She smiled, actually liking the sound of that. That’s right, I’m not, she thought. I’m Liz Parker. For the first time that she could remember, she felt completely okay with that. More than okay, even. Elated.

She followed Max to the table and waited slightly awkwardly as he hugged his parents and his sister, receiving a congratulations from all of them.

“I liked your speech, Max,” Alex said. “The salutatorian was never smarter.”

“You know, I have to admit, I actually kind of liked being salutatorian,” Max admitted. “It felt more fitting, somehow.”

“It was an excellent speech, Max,” his mother agreed. “We really are proud of you.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

Liz smiled, happy to see this. Diane and Phillip and Amy had all made some great and much-needed changes. Maybe the future really was something to be hopeful about.

“Hey, Max,” Alex said, “you didn’t tell me your dad was a Star Trek fan.”

Max wrinkled his forehead. “I didn’t know he was.”

Alex’s mouth gaped, and he said, “Mr. Evans, we might just be a match made in heaven. I’m a closet Trekkie myself.”

Mr. Evans laughed. “Well, how about that?”

“Not closet anymore,” Isabel mumbled.

Liz glanced around, suddenly wondering if she had a place here. Her insecurities, though diminishing, weren’t quite gone just yet. She wouldn’t be herself if she wasn’t worrying about something.

“Uh, Mom, Dad,” Max interrupted the Star Trek conversation suddenly. “You remember Liz, right?”

“Right,” Diane said. “You’re Max’s roommate.”

“Yeah, my roommate,” Max said.

Her heart started to fall a little. Just a roommate?

It started to beat fast in anticipation when she felt his hand touching hers, his fingers intertwining with hers. Contact. “Also my girlfriend,” he added, smiling at her.

She smiled back at him, more than a little bit breathless, and more than a little bit thrilled. Liz and Max. It had a ring to it.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Admittedly, Maria panicked when she woke up naked and in bed. How could she not? The last two times she had done that, she and Michael had ended up fighting and almost destroying their friendship, and she vehemently didn’t want to do that again. When she whirled around and saw him lying beside her, though, propped up on one elbow, apparently having been just watching her sleep, waves of relief coursed through her.

“Hey,” he said, smiling.

She smiled, so happy to have him next to her. “You’re here.”

“Oh, yeah. You’re never gettin’ rid of me now.”

She smiled at that, too, then decided to mess with him a bit. “Never?” she echoed, making a face. “Hmm. Maybe I should rethink this whole loving you thing.”

He laughed.

“No. Just kidding. I pretty much like the thought of forever.” She reached out and interlaced her fingers with his own, still needing to feel him. Actually, she couldn’t think of a time when she wouldn’t need to feel him.

“That was amazing earlier,” he said, lying down on his side. “I’m not gonna go around advertising this, but I can barely keep up with you.”

“Shut up. I was trying to keep up with you.”

“No, I was trying to keep up with you.”

“No, I . . .” He thought about it and reconsidered. “Okay. You were trying to keep up with me.”

He grunted, laughed a little and said, “No, actually you were trying to keep up with me after all.”

“God, you’re such a loser.”

“Loser who gets the job done,” he pointed out. “Not that it’s much of a job. That would imply work and dissatisfaction. None of that here.”

“Yeah.” She rolled over onto her side so she could look him right in the eyes when she asked, “Michael, speaking of work, can we, like, clarify something?”

“We, like, can,” he mimicked.

She rolled her eyes. “I just . . . you say you’re gonna be here forever, but what if you get another internship in L.A.? Or New York, or—I don’t know—Guam or something.”

“Guam?”

“Yeah. Would you go?”

“Well, not to Guam.”

She rolled her eyes again. “Seriously.”

“No, I wouldn’t go,” he assured her immediately. “That stuff just isn’t for me. Besides, I’m stayin’ with you.”

“I just don’t wanna limit you.”

“Trust me, Maria, as long as I’m with you, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

She smiled. “Check you out. Mr. Romantic.”

“Check me out.”

She laughed. “Well, this is good to know.”

“Yeah. You know, I’ll have to talk to Alex. He brought up this idea about the two of us maybe starting up our own film company. Sounds risky, I know, but he’s got a lot of good ideas.”

“Huh,” she said. “So it’d be, like, Whitman-Guerin Productions?”

Guerin-Whitman Productions,” he corrected. “My name’s first. My name’s always first.”

“Are you sure? ‘Cause this is the DeLuca-Guerin household now.”

“Guerin-DeLuca.”

“Uh-uh. Alphabetical order. Plus, I’m better so I get to be first.” She smirked, pleased with herself.

“Fine, it’s the DeLuca-Guerin household,” he acquiesced. “And the only reason I’m agreeing to that is ‘cause I’m still high on sex right now.”

She smiled and laughed. “Me, too. I’m so glad we both enjoy a good sack session.”

“Ah, more than one.” He grinned.

She felt his leg sliding in between hers, and she moved in closer to him. The scent of their union was still heavy in the air, intoxicating, invigorating. She really had no desire to ever get out of that bed. Ever.

“I can’t believe you’re my boyfriend now,” she said. “That’s so weird.”

“Hey, you’re my girlfriend, you know.”

“I know. It’s funny how things work out.”

He brought his hand down underneath the covers to cup her backside and press their lower bodies close together, eliciting a small moan from her. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“Just that, a year ago, or even a week ago, if someone had told me that we’d be laying here right now, ready to put it on each other again, no longer denying that we’re in love, I would’ve laughed my ass off. Because I didn’t even know I loved you. I’ve known you so long, Michael, and I didn’t . . .” She trailed off and said, “I don’t feel like we wasted time, though. Even though it took us eight years. Do you?”

“Feel like we wasted time?”

“Yeah.”

“No. Friends first. That’s my motto.”

She laughed. “Oh, how cheesy and so not your motto.”

“Well, it is now,” he decided.

She knew him too well to know that wasn’t it. “Yeah, right. We both know your motto’s still ‘get laid, get it hard, get laid again.’”

“Well, that, too.” He grinned mischievously. “Speaking of getting it hard . . .” He pressed his erection in between her thighs.

“You really are like an Energizer Bunny,” she said, not at all disappointed. “An Energizer Bunny who likes to direct things.”

“Oh, yeah. Damn, I wish I had my camera right now.”

She frowned, suddenly realizing that he didn’t seem to have any of his things. “Where is your camera? And all the rest of your stuff.”

He shrugged. “Who knows? The camera’s broken. The other stuff might be on a plane headed this way.”

“Your camera’s broken?”

“I dropped it runnin’ through the airport, didn’t really stop to go back for it.”

“Maria vs. the camera and Maria won?” She smiled happily. “You really do love me!”

“Hell yeah, I do, dirty girl.” He reached up and stroked her hair, tucking some strands behind her ear.

She grunted. “Ugly boy.”

Sexy boy.”

“What?” she shrieked. “You can’t change your nickname now. That’s, like, unlawful! You are ugly boy. I am dirty girl. That’s the end of it.”

He smiled and once again said, “Sexy boy.”

“Oh my god, you’re a piece of work.”

He laughed, kept on smiling, and gazed at her with a look of pure passion, pure understanding, and desire, and she returned that look to the fullest. Then he surprised her by asking a completely random, but somehow completely appropriate question for the two of them and the nature of their relationship. “Wanna see if we can have sex for twenty-four hours straight?”

She felt her face light up with excitement at the thought, and she couldn’t contain herself. “Oh my god, yes.”

They crashed together in a kiss.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

My name is Maria DeLuca, and I just graduated from the University of Santa Fe. You all know me now, so congratulations. You know that my friends and I (and yes, they are still my friends) are practically the most popular people ever, and that’s still an understatement. We truly are campus legends. I can think of worse of things.

Kyle, Max, and Michael and I aren’t as simple as we used to be. Things changed this year. Relationships changed. Kyle’s going to be a married man soon, and Max is actually happy now. And Michael and I . . . well, we’re still trying to hit a marathon twenty-four hours of sex, so clearly we’re doing fine.

I love him so much. Even though he’s still annoying as hell. And he loves me.

This year, I thought I knew who I was; I thought I knew what I wanted. But I was completely wrong. Now I know who I am; now I know what I want. And the most amazing thing of all is, I finally have it.

I spent most of my college career
not paying attention in class, not studying for tests, and I ended up learning something huge, something that completely changed my life. It still sounds kind of weird when I say it out loud, but it really is just one thing to have sex. It’s quite another to have passion.

Michael and I have it in spades.










THE END





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqi0aNevF2U&fmt=18
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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