Touching Skin (M/L, AU, Mat., 1/1) [COMPLETE]

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

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Touching Skin (M/L, AU, Mat., 1/1) [COMPLETE]

Post by LairaBehr4 » Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:09 pm

Title: Touching Skin

Author: LairaBehr4

Category: Dreamer, AU without Aliens

Rating: Mature

Summary: Takes place when Max and Liz are in their 40’s and are looking at the bright end of the tunnel after a very dark time.

Dedication: I'm dedicating this story to my beloved beta, Sprayadhesive, who's never given up on me, nor let me give up on any of my story ideas. Thank you.
Also to every life that's been affected by this disease: one in eight women is far too many. Donate now to fight breast cancer.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Banner: by FrenchDreamer – thank you!


Touching Skin

Liz turned over onto her back as her eyes blinked open. She didn’t even need to look around the room to know that Max wasn’t in the bedroom with her; after being married for almost twenty years, she was familiar with every detail about their lives together. From the curl of the mattress – or in this case, the lack thereof – she could tell exactly where her husband was – or in this case, wasn’t.

A few seconds of careful, strained listening told her that her husband was downstairs in the kitchen. By the periodic clinks and clanks she heard, he was probably making lunch. Sandwiches, if she had to guess; it was a family favorite on lazy Saturdays. Hushed voices further told her that their two children were down there with him, too. She closed her eyes and pictured the scene as it probably existed: Max bustling around between the counter, the sink, the toaster and the fridge, collecting bread, mayonnaise, mustard, cheese, bacon, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and turkey lunch meat, making small talk with the kids about school, sports, the news, family gossip, their friends, … anything, and all the time asking them what they wanted with on their sandwiches. Stephen, their seventeen-year-old son, would want the complete works, which was the same thing his father loved as well. Their daughter Allison would want grilled cheese with tomato, onions and bacon. And Max would comply entirely, making their lunches just perfect for them, going as far as bringing them their sodas and potato chips on a separate plate while the kids sat comfortably at the kitchen table and watched their father. They probably wouldn’t even ask if they could help. And even if they did, he’d say no. Between Max’s work and the kids’ various activities, not to mention everything that had been going on with her the past year, Max’s quality time with the kids had been more than scarce lately. Steve would be going to college in eight months, and Allie wouldn’t be far behind. Making them their weekend lunch would probably be the highlight of Max’s day.

They were more quiet than usual. Most of the house had wood and tile floors, so voices echoed easily, but she could hardly hear their voices. Normally she could hear the very words each person spoke, and that would be long before … she glanced at the bedside clock … a quarter to noon. Max was probably telling them to keep their voices down so that she could rest. She needed it, it was true. She was still recovering from her major surgery almost three weeks ago. The doctors had told her they’d gotten it all, that there wouldn’t be any need for chemotherapy or radiation. Still, she’d be at risk for the rest of her life. It could spread to anywhere else in her body. She had to blink back tears as she thought about how unfair it was. She wasn’t even fifty yet, had no history of breast cancer in her family. But here she was now, and …

This line of thinking wasn’t helping her at all. She needed to stop thinking like that. It had happened, and that was all. Besides, it could have been worse. Her kids, Max, their friends, even her parents had really come through for them, dropping everything when she needed them and stepping in to help out any way they could. Especially Steve and Allie. They’d been forced to grow up in ways that Liz would have preferred they’d never had to face. And instead of being there for them like a mother should, they’d had to be the ones to comfort and support her. Hopefully once she was back to her old self, she could make the rest of their time at home so enjoyable that they’d forget she’d ever been in danger.

Almost absentmindedly, her hand drifted down past her face and neck to her chest, where, only a few weeks ago, one cancerous breast had been. A small frown marred her face as she traced the flat area now. She’d never had particularly large breasts, except while she was pregnant and nursing; and even then, her breasts had never been the type that would win swimsuit competitions. But they’d been hers. They’d sprouted almost overnight the summer she was twelve, much to her friend Maria’s envy. They’d seemed so silly; squishy, odd-shaped things that really didn’t do anything. But when school had started again, suddenly it seemed like they were everywhere. Girls talked about them in the locker rooms, and the ever-suave seventh-grade boys kept trying to get a look down the girls’ shirts to get a peak. That was the autumn that Maria’s had started to grow, and she’d quickly surpassed Liz. They wouldn’t be swapping shirts as easily after that.

Then there was high school, and sophomore year had brought her first serious boyfriend. Jeremiah had been a sweet guy, extremely smart, with a good heart. They’d moved slowly, since they were both so young, but after the homecoming dance junior year they’d taken his truck out to the desert and he’d touched her there for the first time. It had been strained, since she didn’t want to take off her dress, but still, it had felt wonderful. She hadn’t known how sensitive and wonderful they could feel until then. A month or so after that, he’d become the first man to see them, to kiss them, to explore with her the fullest depths of how much pleasure they could bring her. It was after prom that they’d lost their virginities together, and while it had been a very nice experience, Liz had known that night that what she felt with Jeremiah wasn’t going to last forever. Any fantasies she’d had of them growing old together had died in the face of her lost innocence. When she broke up with him the last day of school, he’d yelled and screamed and threatened. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Wasn’t it the guy who usually broke up with the girl after he got what he wanted? Liz was still sorry that it had ended like that, and she couldn’t help but wonder if things could have been different, if they ever would have been friends again. But over the Fourth of July that summer, Jeremiah had gotten drunk with some friends out in the desert, near the spot where the two of them had gone after Homecoming. Whoever was driving – the investigators hadn’t been able to say with certainty who had been behind the wheel, since all but one of them were ejected from the car – had driven off of a ravine located almost ten miles from the road.

Liz had been beside herself with grief and guilt. Even now, over twenty years later, the rest of that summer felt like a dream which had vanished upon awakening. She could remember celebrating Fourth of July with her family, and she could remember school starting in September, but everything between then was a blur. She knew, because her mother talked about it still sometimes, that she’d cried herself to sleep for almost a week. That she hadn’t been able to leave her room for three days. That no one, not her parents nor Maria nor Alex, had been able to comfort her. The only thing Liz knew for certain about that summer was that it had been then that she’d decided not to stay in New Mexico for college. The memories were just too painful. And so when she was offered a full scholarship to the University of San Francisco, she’d taken it. And thank God she had, because it had been there that she’d met Max.

Oh, Max. God, he’d been so beautiful then. He still was – the only thing that had really changed about him was some slight graying at his temples. Other than that, he looked exactly the same. It really was horribly unfair, she thought with an ironic grin. The first day of class, she’d seen him. They were taking a creative writing class together. He was a sophomore English major, and she was entering with a degree in Chemistry and a minor in English. He’d been so beautiful, she’d just stared at him as the professor had taken attendance. The class was small, only sixteen people. When he’d flicked his wrist into the air at the name “Evans”, she’d smiled. There was something about him that made her knees weak and her heart skip a beat. She knew it was corny, even then, but it was still true.

Every week the professor assigned them partners, so they had someone to bounce ideas off of and test their writing with outside of the classroom. They’d gotten along well together, and became friends. On their second rotation together the week before Thanksgiving, he’d asked her to his place for Thanksgiving dinner since neither would be able to go home. She still remembered what she’d worn: a green box skirt with large pleats that reached below her knees, and a black lace off-the-shoulder shirt with a yellow and red lace trim at the top. The outfit was etched in her mind as the first thing she’d worn to please someone else since Jeremiah had died. She’d wanted something that would emphasize her petite legs and frame while still giving a hint of mystery as to what lay beneath. And judging from the look he’d given her when he came to pick her up, she’d chosen very well.

She still remembered that night as one of the best in her life. He could cook like a master, she discovered; and thank goodness, because that had never been her specialty. They’d sat together in the kitchen of his small apartment, at his small kitchen table decorated with a red table runner and candles, listened to Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, and talked and flirted well into the night. At one point he’d traced the neck of her lace shirt with his fingers, and to this day she couldn’t remember anything feeling quite the same as his fingertips on the skin of her chest.

Eventually the night ended, and he’d driven her home and kissed her in front of her dorm. It had been the first time Liz had felt anything like what might be love. Her memories of Jeremiah didn’t even compare.

The next day, Max called and asked her out. And they’d been dating ever since. It hadn’t all been easy or pretty. They’d been apart months at a time. The first time was the summer after Liz’s freshman year when she’d gone back to New Mexico, but Max had flown in from San Diego, where his parents lived, to visit her and meet her family. They were separated again when Max went to London for his second semester abroad during his junior year, and then when Liz went to Italy for her semester abroad the following semester. But they’d lived together the summer in between, in a small studio apartment near campus. Living in such close confines had been a blessing and a curse – no one to interrupt them and not much cleaning to do, but nowhere to escape to when they had a fight, either. Then there was Liz’s senior year, when Max was living off campus while Liz still had a dorm room that the university paid for. Max had backed off during that time; he said he didn’t want to be too much of a distraction while Liz was preparing to graduate. With all the other stresses of senior year, Liz had gotten defensive and said that he didn’t love her anymore, that he didn’t want to be with her anymore, and that he just didn’t want to tell her.

The next week was Liz’s fall break, and Max rented a car and drove her to a hotel in Napa Valley for her twenty-first birthday. He spent nine days making it abundantly clear to her that he loved her more and more every day. Even now, as Liz reminisced about that week, she found herself blushing. And she’d never questioned their relationship again.

Well, maybe not “never”. The last several months were threatening to push her to the brink. She didn’t doubt that he still loved her, it wasn’t that at all. But there was more now. This cancer had changed her body, had taken away the first thing that had made her feel like a woman. Her hand searched a little more and found the uneven, puckered lines where once soft, gentle curves had been. More memories sprang into her head, all relating to Max. There was the first time he’d touched the sensitive skin there, as amazed with the discovery of her body’s reaction to him as she was. There was the first time he’d kissed her breasts and made her gasp with pleasure like no one else had ever done. He’d held her, massaged her, tasted her, whispered against her skin how good she felt there. That was one night she’d never forget, for several reasons. It was the night before she would fly back to New Mexico for winter break. Both their finals were finished, and they drove in his car to a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge with a blanket. It was that night that she’d told him about Jeremiah, about her relationship with him, and about the role she played in his death that she still held herself accountable for. He’d held her tight as she cried and had told her again and again that it wasn’t her fault. That night, for the first time, she’d surrendered herself entirely to another person, trusting him with her entire being. And he hadn’t betrayed that trust by moving into something she wasn’t ready for, and though they’d crossed Rubicons that night, he’d held back making love.

Their first time together had followed six weeks later, a couple of weeks after they’d returned for the spring semester. Max had cooked her another dinner, complete with home-made ice cream for dessert. And after putting a bad movie into the VCR and making out on his couch, she’d stood up, taken his hand in hers, and walked into his bedroom. Once again he’d traced the neck of her shirt as he’d done on Thanksgiving, teasing and worshipping in one barely-there touch. Slowly they’d undressed each other, touching and kissing as they unhurriedly made their way into the queen-size bed. He’d cupped her swells and told her how she felt like she’d been made for him to hold like this.

There were other times, too, that stuck out in her memory; like on their honeymoon, when he’d brought her to the heights of pleasure without stimulating any other part of her body but her pert little breasts. That had been only the first of many orgasms she’d experienced that week when they’d made time stand still just for them. And there were the times they’d shared during her first pregnancy, when they’d experienced together the changes in her body with awe and wonder, seeing how her humble breasts could swell heavily with the delightful burden of being with child. Everything had seemed enhanced then – her size, her sensitivity, and of course her emotions. Max had taken every change in stride, humoring her one minute and tearing her clothes off the next. Liz once told him that while she loved motherhood, she was rather ambivalent towards pregnancy. Max said in response that if what they’d gone through together was the best that pregnancy had to offer, it’d make the worst of it worthwhile any day.

Shortly after Steven was born, they bought a house in Oakland. Max started to achieve some success as an author of novels while Liz continued to work at the USF biology labs while working towards her masters and eventually her PhD.

When she got pregnant again, Max had bought her a maternity negligee with a snapping bra clasp. It would be difficult to say who’d gotten more enjoyment out of that particular piece of … well, she hesitated to use the word “clothing”, but she supposed it could fit. At this moment, Liz found herself wondering what had happened to it. Few of their possessions had survived the twenty-five years that they’d been together and the changes that such years bring. The only thing that Liz could think of that had remained was their bed, the very same one that she was resting in now. The frame had been a high school graduation gift from one of Max’s parent’s friends, who was a celebrated carpenter outside of Los Angeles. After Steven was born, his parents called on this friend to add on to the frame, making it from a queen-size bed to a king-size. For many years, the only television in the house had been in their room, and so TV-watching had been a group activity, with the entire family sitting or lying together on the bed. Max told her their first night together that although he wasn’t a virgin, she was the only woman who’d ever shared this bed with him.

Twenty-five years later, it was still true, she thought as she turned onto her side. But things had changed drastically over the last year. The happy monotony of their children and jobs had been turned on its ear when Liz’s doctor gave the diagnosis. The radiation had been difficult enough to endure, with side effects ranging from an emotional roller coaster ride that rivaled the worst she’d ever been while pregnant, to hair loss. Luckily, that had started to grow back after she’d decided to just have the surgery, though it was still thin and matted. The changes to her skin had gone away, too – the redness and burning had faded, and if you ignored the surgical scars, her skin almost looked normal, except for the enlarged pores. But there had been other side-effects, too. She’d been one of the unfortunate few who experienced a decreased white blood cell count as a result of the radiation, and she’d developed a severe cough in the winter that threatened to turn into pneumonia. Her treatment had to be interrupted while her health returned. But at least she’d opted for the surgery before chemotherapy had been necessary. She’d taken stock of her life and what radiation had taken from it already, and decided that it just wasn’t worth it for two such small things as her breasts. She’d talked to Maria about it over the phone, and her friend had agreed. “If it was me,” Maria said, “I would have said ‘cut ‘em off’ on Day One. It’s not worth your life.”

At the time, Liz had agreed, and the surgery date was set. But ever since, she was beginning to reconsider. After all, it wasn’t as though her life had improved ever so much since the surgery. She was still stuck in bed most of the time by a cautious doctor and an overprotective husband. And the loss of such an intimate body part wasn’t getting easier with all those hours alone in bed. Not only that, but she was beginning to wonder whether Max agreed with her decision to have the double mastectomy. He’d told her from the beginning that he’d support her and be there with her for whatever she decided; and when she told him she wanted the surgery, he hadn’t fought her on it. But he also hadn’t touched her romantically since that day. They hadn’t really talked about it outside of the usual assurances and health-related questions. It was nice, but empty compared to the depth of open affection that had always accompanied their relationship before, even during her treatment. And Liz was starting to wonder whether her life with radiation had really been that bad.

The heavy wood of the bedroom door made a familiar sound as it brushed over the carpet. Quickly Liz turned over again and looked towards the door. Max looked back at her as he closed the door again behind him. “Hey,” he said softly. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You didn’t,” she sighed.

“You should be sleeping,” he instructed as he walked towards the bed.

“I sleep every night,” she pointed out. He sat down on the edge of the bed and looked down on her. “You know I do. I can feel you watching me.”

He lowered his eyes as if he’d been caught sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar. “I worry about you.”

“You don’t have to,” she waved him off with one hand and turned towards the other wall.

Gently he took her cheek in one hand and brought her back to face him. “I don’t?” he whispered. She saw unspoken questions in his eyes, and her own began to tear. He knew her fears and insecurities. “Hey,” he told her as he lay down and curled his arms around her. “It’s okay.” Liz wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and pulled him to her as if her life depended on it. He spun his legs around hers and dropped delicate kisses on her shoulder and neck. Liz gasped as her eyes closed and she turned her jaw to meet his.

She wasn’t sure how it happened, but before she knew it he was lying on top of her, looking into her eyes, and tracing the neck of her shirt with his fingertip.

The end.
Last edited by LairaBehr4 on Sat Aug 04, 2007 1:09 am, edited 4 times in total.
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