Tonight's The Night

Category: M&M, AU
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Nope, I don't own anything.
Summary: Michael takes Maria on a date to show her just what she means to him.
Author's Note: This takes place during Season 3 after the episode 'Ch-Ch-Changes' except after Maria sleeps with Michael they work through their problems and decide to give their relationship another chance. Michael's character may seem a little bit 'too good to be true' but you can put that down to the relief he feels now he's back with Maria.

The song I’ve used in the Epilogue is ‘I Don’t Care’ by Angela Via.


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Chapter One

Michael stood nervously outside Maria's house plucking up the courage to ring the doorbell. He had walked to Maria's place instead of taking his bike in the hope that he would be able to calm his nerves. 'Okay, here we go' he thought to himself ringing the doorbell quickly before he chickened out.

Maria, hearing the chimes of the doorbell, took a final look in her mirror and smiled at her reflection. "Not too shabby even if I do say so myself" she said out loud to herself. She had finished work at the CrashDown early in order to get ready for her date with Michael and as soon as she had arrived home had taken a nice relaxing bubble bath to soothe her tired aching muscles. When Michael had suggested the date a couple of days earlier Maria had already decided on her outfit and how she would wear her hair. He had mentioned to her on numerous occasions that while he loved her hair however she wore it, he had always had a preference for when it was curly so after her bath she had spent a while curling her hair before pinning small sections up using her small, sparkly butterfly clips. Maria had decided to wear her black leather mini skirt, which hit her at mid thigh, together with her new sparkly black and silver halter top. The outfit was topped off with her black wedge sandals which gave her the desired effect of both making her appear taller and accentuating her legs. She couldn't help smiling remembering all the times Michael had praised her legs. Picking up both her purse and her overnight bag she quickly ran down the stairs and opened the door to her boyfriend.

Michael's nerves had gotten increasingly worse while he waited for Maria to open the door. He could feel his palms sweating and so wiped his hands on his pants. Finally the door opened and he gasped at the sight his girlfriend made.

"Wow! You look amazing." Michael took a step towards her and cupped her cheek drawing her near and gave her a long, slow kiss. Maria gasped as he pulled away and smiled at him.

"Really?" She asked him shyly.

"Definitely. I love the curls and....." He looked down and seeing she was wearing his favourite sandals said, "I love your choice of footwear." He gave her his usual smirk and gave her another kiss. As she felt him pull away Maria deepened the kiss by slipping her tongue past his lips and rubbing it against his own and then sucked his bottom lip into her mouth.

Maria gently pulled away and then wrapped her arms around Michael's neck hugging him close and breathing in his scent. "God, you smell so good and you're not looking too bad yourself, Mr Guerin." She pulled back to look at him giving him the once over and checking out his clothes. Michael was wearing his smart black pants together with a dark blue button down shirt which he had kept the top two buttons undone. Maria knew that he would be wearing his trademark black boots without having to look down at his feet.

"So Michael, where are you taking me?" Maria asked him as she moved away from him but keeping hold of one of his hands in her own.

"Uh uh, not telling. You'll just have to wait and see." Looking past her into the house he asked, "By the way, where's Amy? Is she out on a date with Valenti tonight?"

"Nope, she's visiting some friends in Illinois for the week remember. I drove her to the airport this morning before my shift started. Um...if it's okay with you I'll stay over at your place tonight. I told Mom that if she calls home and doesn't get any answer to try me at Liz's. I've told Liz I'll be at yours so she'll cover for me." Maria answered.

Michael smiled at her. "It's more than okay for you to stay over, you know that." He bent down to pick up her bulging overnight bag which considering she was only staying over for the night was pretty heavy. "Hey, how long are you planning on staying for? You seem to have packed up your entire wardrobe." He said smiling at her as he walked out of the front door.

"Ha ha, very funny Michael. I'll have you know I've only packed the essentials. Come on, let's get going. I can't wait to see what you've got planned for tonight."

Maria quickly grabbed her leather jacket and followed Michael out of the house after turning off the lights and locking the front door. She then grabbed his free hand and pulled him towards the Jetta. After taking the keys from her Michael unlocked the car and then placed her bag in the trunk. Before Maria had a chance to open the passenger door Michael ran round and opened it for her.

"Let me get that for you, sweetie." Michael said after opening the door and allowing her to get into the car. Before he closed the door he squatted down beside her and smiled. "Tonight is all about you okay. I know we've had our ups and downs lately but I just want to make it clear to you how much I love you and how much I want you to be happy."

Maria couldn't help but just stare at Michael as he told her this. "Oh my God, Michael. I love you too. I am happy, very happy with you. I'm so sorry I broke up with you before......."

"NO!" Michael exclaimed interrupting her before she could continue. "Sorry. I didn't mean to shout. I just didn't want you to say that. You were right to break up with me. I was taking you for granted and ignoring you. I knew you were still grieving for Alex but because you didn't talk about it and I didn't want to upset you further I didn't push the matter. When Billy arrived on the scene I......I was jealous. Billy made you remember your dreams and the plans you and Alex used to make involving music. He made you smile, something I didn't seem able to do. I couldn't get past my jealousy in order for you to have Billy around as a friend. I made you tell him to leave town and you did it, just like that. For that I'm sorry."

Michael took a deep breath and continued. "But tonight I want us to move on okay? I want us both to stop apologising for the past and start with a clean slate on both sides. I'm not saying everything is going to be easy and that we won't slip up along the way but I just want us to be able to talk about anything and everything, not only to tell each other when things are bothering us but when things are going well too. Do you get what I'm saying, Maria?"

Maria nodded and placed her palms on either side of Michael's face and brought her forehead down to lean against his and looked into his eyes. "Yes, Michael, I do get it. But you do know that Billy kissed me, right? I mean, I don't want us to start this new phase of our relationship before I tell you that. I....I kissed him back. It didn't mean anything though. It couldn't even compare to the way you kiss me."

Michael placed his index finger upon her lips to quieten her. "I know about the kiss. I saw it in a flash the night we made love and I was able to tell how you felt. I know you weren't in love with him. I also saw you pull away and tell him it was wrong. You have nothing to be sorry for. I could sense how confused you were feeling."

Maria smiled a beautiful smile which brightened her whole face. "When did I get so lucky?" She drew him closer and kissed the tip of his nose and giggled at the way he scrunched up his face.

"Do you remember when I used to want us to be like Max and Liz?" Michael nodded yes to her question. "Well, I'm glad we never were. I love the way we are, the way we've always been. I like the fact that we've pretty much always been honest with one another. I won't deny that it has been hard putting up with being pushed away but we got there in the end. You're all I've ever wanted and the only guy I've ever been in love with. I wouldn't change a single thing." Maria stated. "I don't know why I thought I couldn't have you and follow my dreams as well." All of a sudden Maria let her gaze drop before continuing in a quieter voice. "You've always been my dream, Michael. I love music and I always will and maybe one day I'll pursue a career in that field, but I won't let it ever interfere with us. Ever." She stated wholeheartedly.

Michael brought his hand up to Maria's face tipping it up so she was once again looking into his eyes and he wiped away her tears with his thumbs. "How about we start thinking happy thoughts and get started on our date now we've got all that off our chests?" He moved in closer and planted a soft kiss on her lips.

"Okay." She replied smiling. "Are you gonna give me a clue as to where you're taking me?" Maria asked him.

Michael thought about it for a second before saying, "Um.....no. You'll just have to wait, but I will say we've been there before." He answered cryptically.

Michael gave her another kiss before standing up and closing her door. While he walked round to get into the driver's seat he put his hand into the right pocket of his pants and patted the small box he'd put there earlier that evening and said under his breath, "Tonight is definitely the night."


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Chapter Two

Michael couldn't help sneaking glances at Maria as he drove them to their destination. He had noticed that her skirt kept sliding up her slim thighs as she twisted in her seat trying to guess where they were headed and he was having trouble keeping his eyes off of her. 'Focus on the road. Focus on the road.' He repeated the mantra in his head forcing himself to keep his eyes on the road ahead. 'I don't want to kill us both, although I'll probably want to kill myself if she says no.' Michael thought miserably.

"Come on, Michael. Tell me. Where are we going?" Maria's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"I've already told you, it's a surprise. We'll be there soon." He answered without looking at his girlfriend. He knew if he looked at her he'd probably cave in and tell her but he didn't want to miss the look on her face when she realised where they were.

'Dammit, why won't he tell me?' Maria slowly moved and scooted over to sit closer to Michael resting her head on his shoulder and placing her hand on his thigh rubbing it back and forth.

"Cut it out, Maria." Michael said laughing. "You're not going to get round me that easily. Why don't you keep looking out the window and see if you can guess where we're going?"

"Okay, fine. Just don't think you're getting any tonight, honey." She replied sarcastically moving away from him.

'Great. Just f**king great.' Michael thought. "Maria, baby, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. It's just......I just want tonight to be perfect and where I'm taking you is.....well, it's kinda significant."

Maria felt a little bad after he said that and so scooched back over to where she had been sitting and placed her hand back on his thigh. "No, I'm sorry, Spaceboy. You know how impatient I can be. It means a lot that you've planned this date. I just can't wait to get started, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Michael replied placing his hand over hers resting on his thigh and intertwined their fingers.

As they drove on further Maria recognised their surroundings and all of a sudden let out a squeal of excitement. "Oh my God. I know where we are. I can't believe you remembered that."

Michael pulled the car over and turned the ignition off. He turned in his seat and looking into Maria's eyes smiled at her. "Of course I remember, Maria. Come on, I want to show you something."

Michael opened his door and got out of the car, walking round to Maria's side and opening the door for her. She took his offered hand and got out of the car closing the door behind her. He led her to a small clearing where lights hung from a few of the surrounding trees and a blanket was laid on the ground with a picnic basket in the middle of it.

Maria was too choked to speak and so instead threw her arms around Michael's neck and hugged him tight. After a few moments she spoke, "I can't believe you've done this, Michael. It's perfect." She raised up on her toes and kissed him.

Michael pulled away before they got carried away as they usually did. "Okay, remember before we left your place that I said tonight was about us making a fresh start." Maria nodded yes. "Well, I think before we can do that and move on we need to really talk about everything."

Michael, knowing that this conversation could go on for a while, decided they would be more comfortable sitting down and so he walked over leading Maria to where the blanket was laid out and moved the picnic basket over to the side. He then slowly sat down and motioned for Maria to do the same, which she did. She sat across from him and took both his hands in hers, gently rubbing her thumbs back and forth. When he was sure they were comfortable, Michael continued.

"'Ria, when you said what you did that night, it made me realise just how much you cared about me. For a while after that night when I came to you, you know after all that crap with Hank, I was worried that you only helped me because you felt sorry for me and......I didn't want that. But that night when we came out here I knew it wasn't pity you were feeling. On the journey here I found out you came along to somehow protect me because you knew I wasn't going to tell Max and Isabel what I was planning on doing, giving them a chance to talk me out of it. You said something that made me realise just how much I had been kidding myself about whatever it was we were doing. I'd always held you at arms length, made you think you were only someone to make out with, but now I had the words that I'd probably always wanted to hear and I was glad it was you that said it."

"After that everything just seemed to go crazy with the whole Destiny thing and I ended up pushing you away. I knew you were hurting but I kept my feelings hidden except to tell you I was trying to keep you safe." Michael paused for a moment and just took in Maria's face, seeing all the love she felt for him and knowing it was reflected on his own face.

"The reason I've brought you out here is because I want our fresh start to begin here, tonight. I know it's not exactly where everything started for us but I do think it's a pretty significant place. So, what do you say Maria?"

Michael closed his eyes trying to hold back the tears that had gathered, willing them not to fall. He suddenly felt Maria's hand on his cheek caressing him gently. She then moved her hand to the back of his neck drawing her mouth close to his ear and whispered,

"Ditto, Michael."


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Chapter Three

Michael pulled away and looked deep into his girlfriend's eyes. He noticed how they sparkled, how brilliantly they shone in contrast to the darkness of the evening. He could see she too was struggling not to let her tears fall.

"Maria, I...." He started to say.

"No, it's my turn now Michael." Maria took a deep breath before continuing. "That night when we came up here to Buckley Point to meet Topolski I was so scared. I was scared because first of all we didn't know if it was a setup or not, then I was scared that if it was real that you'd be leaving me. I knew you cared about me even if you never really said anything or gave me any indication that you did. I could just feel it. I knew it would be selfish but I....I wanted to keep you all to myself. But I couldn't. It wouldn't have been fair. You needed to find out about your past, to find out who you, Max and Isabel really were."

"Even though she's my best friend, I could never really talk to Liz about my feelings. Whenever I'd start to say something that was about me I knew she wasn't really listening and whatever I did say she'd turn it around so she could talk about herself and Max. It made me doubt myself, made me think maybe I wasn't being a good friend because I'd feel angry listening to her go on and on about him and her own problems and I felt that maybe I was being selfish."

Michael shook his head. "You're not a selfish person, Maria. You're the most giving person I've ever known and the most loyal."

Maria smiled at him. "Uh uh, no interruptions. I haven't finished yet. But thank you for saying that." She said before continuing.

"When we arrived here and you followed me after I'd more or less jumped out of the car, you said you'd been waiting for this your whole life and I replied by saying so had I. It was strange how what we'd said meant two totally different things. I never meant to just blurt it out while we were arguing. Hell, I'd never meant to say it at all. I had always thought that if I just acted like we were just make-out buddies, then I'd get to be with you more often. That you wouldn't think I was getting intense as you put it. I don't think I was ever very convincing though, was I?"

Michael pulled Maria towards him so she was sitting in his lap and wrapped his arms around her tightly. "I'm so sorry I pushed you away all those times. Especially all those times after the whole Destiny thing came up and then when I used to go on about being a soldier, needing to be alone. I only stayed away to keep you safe but I know now that I feel better when I'm with you. I'm happy being with you."

"Me too." Maria agreed hugging him back.

"Right, now we've each said our piece, let's get this date started." Michael said rubbing one of his hands up and down her back.

"What'cha got in mind, Spaceboy?" Maria asked snuggling her face into the crook of his neck and inhaling deeply. She loved the way Michael always had this unique scent that seemed to call to her whenever he was around.

"Well, I think we should eat first 'cos I don't know about you but all that talking has made me really hungry." Michael answered, turning slightly to grab the picnic basket and bringing it closer to them.

Maria laughed and asked, "When are you not hungry?"

Maria moved off Michael's lap and sat back across from him and opened the basket taking out the food he had brought. She noticed that Michael had brought her favourite sandwich, as well as his own, a few slices of pizza together with some bottles of water and cans of soda. She couldn't help smiling when she saw the bottle of tabasco sauce. Her eyes suddenly noticed the two pots of chocolate mousse which was one of her favourite desserts and she had a wicked idea. 'I think we can have some fun with those later.' Maria thought to herself.

Michael opened a can of cherry cola pouring it into one of the re-usable plastic cups he'd brought along and added a liberal amount of tabasco sauce to it before taking a long drink. He took a bottled water handing it to Maria as she passed him his sandwich before she unwrapped her own taking a bite.

"Sorry about the food, Maria. I know it's nothing special but......" Michael started to say.

"Michael, it's fine. I didn't come on this date because of the food. I came because I wanted to spend some time with you. Anyway, you brought my favourite sandwich and dessert which shows you were thinking of how to make it special." Maria stated.

'How lucky am I?' Michael questioned himself mentally giving his girlfriend a smile.

Michael and Maria continued to eat their food in a comfortable silence, occasionally talking about general stuff and keeping the conversation from getting heavy again.

"That was great, even if I do say so myself." Michael said having already finished his sandwich and a couple of slices of pizza which he had doused in tabasco.

"Be careful, Michael, we don't want your head getting any bigger now, do we?" Maria told him.

Michael looked down into his lap before raising his eyes to meet his girlfriend's and smirked suggestively replying, "Don't we?"

Maria burst out laughing. She started putting all the trash from their picnic back in the basket before moving it over to the side. She then crawled over and raised herself up on her knees in front of Michael so they were at eye level. "I was thinking we could maybe save the chocolate mousse for later, if you know what I mean."

Michael swallowed. "Uh.....yeah, that sounds........um......that sounds good."

"Cool." Maria said and then launched herself into her boyfriend's arms knocking him backwards. She kissed him hungrily savouring the taste of tabasco sauce that lingered on his lips and tongue. Maria pulled back slightly raining kisses all over Michael's face before moving to his earlobe and nibbling it. "God, Michael. I love the taste of tabasco on you." She sucked his earlobe into her mouth before moving down to his neck sucking furiously knowing she would be leaving her mark.

Michael was breathing heavily enjoying the feel of Maria's lips all over his face and neck, and the feel of her hands which were making quick work of unbuttoning his shirt. 'Am I glad I didn't wear an undershirt under this tonight. The less clothing the better.' Michael thought to himself smiling. He could feel her hands pushing the shirt of his shoulders and her hands touching his exposed chest. Suddenly Michael remembered there was something he'd forgotten.

"Maria....honey........" He started to say.

As soon as he started talking Maria started to kiss his lips again thrusting her tongue deep into his mouth.

"Honey, we have to stop........Maria......please.......just give me a minute....." Michael's words trailed off as he gently pushed Maria off of him and rolled her so they were now lying on their sides face to face.

"Michael......what is it? I thought you'd want this as much as I do." Maria said suddenly feeling a little vulnerable.

Michael, sensing how she was feeling, cupped her cheek rubbing his thumb back and forth over her cheekbone. "Baby, it is. It is what I want. It's just....um.......I remembered I forgot to say something to you and it can't wait. If I don't say it now, then......" He trailed off feeling unsure of himself.

"Michael, after everything we've talked about tonight I don't know what else is left to say. I mean, I thought we pretty much covered everything."

"Yeah, we have. But I just have this one thing left that I really need to ask you." He replied moving his hand softly from her cheek down to her mouth, slowly rubbing his thumb over her bottom lip.

Michael continued. "After that, it's pretty much up to you."


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Chapter Four

'Oh my God. Is he talking about what I think he's talking about?' Maria thought. "Um....Michael, what....what are you talking about?" She asked him sitting up.

Michael could see the shocked expression on Maria's face and suddenly he felt scared. 'I can't do this. It's too soon to ask her. I know she's just going to say no.' So instead of asking her the question he had been dying to ask for several months he said, "I was...uh...I was just going to ask if you're sure about staying over at my apartment tonight." He kept looking down at the ground as he moved himself into a sitting position facing her.

Maria knew that that wasn't what he was going to ask and could feel Michael's nervousness coming through. She gently placed her fingers under his chin and raised his face so she could look into his eyes. "You know I want to stay with you tonight so why don't you just ask me the real question."

"I...I don't know what you mean, Maria." He replied.

"Don't do this Michael. I know you brought me out here tonight to ask me something important so why can't you just say it. We've talked about everything that we can talk about regarding us already so just say it. Please." Maria paused for a moment. "I thought we agreed we would talk about everything and not keep secrets from each other. Was that true or were you lying? Come on Michael, tell me. I wanna know!"

"Of course I wasn't lying. I meant every word I said." Michael sighed and ran his hands through his hair before rubbing them over his face. He finally looked at Maria and smiled. "Whatever's gone on with us in the past I can honestly say I've never lied to you. You're right though, I did bring you out here tonight to ask you something important. It's just that I......uh....I got scared."

Maria picked up one of Michael's hands which were resting in his lap and brought it up to her lips and kissed each knuckle. "Just ask me." She whispered.

Michael nodded and then moved himself into a kneeling position. He put his hand into his pants pocket and curled his fingers around the small box before he withdrew it. He took a deep breath and again shifted slightly so he was now resting on one knee.

"Maria, everything I've said tonight has been true. I love you with all my heart and after the short time we were apart, which for me felt like a lifetime, I know that you're the only girl for me. Whenever I've thought about the future I've always pictured you there with me. So, the question I want to ask you is......." He paused as he opened the small box and held it so she could see its contents. "The question is will you marry me, Maria?" This time Michael didn't look away from her. He kept his eyes focused on hers and saw the tears glistening there. He took the ring out of the box and held it in front of her. Maria smiled at him, a smile that seemed to illuminate her whole face, and simply held out her left hand to him. Michael smiled back in relief and slipped the white gold band which was adorned with a diamond in the centre and five emeralds surrounding it onto her ring finger. He then brought it up to his lips and kissed her hand.

"So Maria, was that a yes?" Michael asked.

Holding onto Michael's hands Maria pulled herself up so she was als kneeling and wrapping her right arm around his neck she looked at her left hand and smiled. "Yes, Michael. Yes I'll marry you." She then wrapped her other arm around his neck and brought his lips down to meet hers. The kiss they shared was passionate and went deep resulting in them both seeing stars. After a few minutes they pulled away from each other gasping for air. "I can't believe we're engaged," Maria said. She just couldn't stop smiling and neither it seemed could Michael. For someone who had never really had a reason to smile before, Maria's acceptance of his proposal was the complete demolition of any remains of the stonewall he had once erected within himself.

Michael kissed her again before hugging her close to him. "Thank you, Maria. Thank you for saying yes."

"There's no need to thank me, Spaceboy. Marrying you will be my pleasure." Maria replied breathlessly before she kissed him again. "So, did anyone else know you were planning on proposing?" She asked him.

Michael's words stuck in his throat as Maria kissed a path from his lips, across his cheek before she proceeded to kiss and nibble on his ear. "......Um.......no, not really.......Well, no one except your Mom."

Maria, startled by what Michael had just said, stopped what she was doing and looked at his face thinking that maybe he was joking. "What did you say? You told my Mom. Why?"

Michael sat back down on the blanket and pulled Maria into his lap. "I wanted to do this properly so I went to see Amy a couple of days ago at her store. I guess I kinda wanted her approval before I went ahead and asked you. I thought she'd be mad and tell me we were too young but she didn't. Amy told me she trusted me when it came to you and that she'd be proud to have me as her son-in-law. The next thing I know she's hugging the life out of me and saying 'welcome to the family'. I pointed out that I hadn't actually asked you yet and so you hadn't agreed, but Amy just said she knew you and could see how much you loved me."

Maria was speechless. She couldn't believe that Michael had more or less asked her Mom for permission to marry her and more surprising was the fact that Amy had actually said yes!

"Wow. I.....I can't believe you went to see my Mom or the fact that she's cool with us getting married. So, you didn't even tell Max and Isabel about what you were planning?" Maria asked him.

"No. I just didn't see why I should. I know for a fact that if Max was planning on proposing to Liz he wouldn't come and tell me or Isabel first. He would just go ahead and do what he wanted like he always does."

"Hey baby, it's okay. I know what you mean though. Liz is the same as Max in some ways. She'd sometimes ask my advice or opinion on something and then after I'd given it she'd just ignore it and do what she wanted. You do know that they will all object to us getting married though. They'll probably say we're too young or something."

"Yeah, I know. I don't care what they think. As long as you're okay with it and Amy's happy, then that's all I care about. The two of you.......well, you'll be my family. But, before we get too ahead of ourselves I wanna say something first so don't get mad, okay?"

"Okay, what do you want to say?"

"Well.........even though we're engaged I don't think we should rush into getting married. I thought we could have a long engagement, for like a year or two maybe. I just think we should graduate first and then think about college or jobs or whatever. What do you think?" Michael asked nervously.

"You keep surprising me, Michael. While I'd love to marry you this second I think you're right. When we get married I want it to be beautiful and planned for. I also want us to be settled in whatever it is we're doing. While I don't particularly want to go away to a college like the ones Liz and Max will probably go to, I wouldn't mind giving the local community college a try. Also I don't know about you Michael, but I think I want to stay in Roswell. At least for a while after we're married."

"Yeah, me too. I always thought I'd leave Roswell at the first opportunity but well things changed." He smiled shyly at her and she squeezed his hand. "Anyway, the community college sounds good. I know Isabel's really enjoying it there. Oh, before I forget, your Mom said she wanted to talk to both of us once I'd popped the question. She's probably come up with a new set of rules for us." Michael said rolling his eyes.

Maria giggled. "Not that we've ever really kept any of her original rules." She brought her left hand up to his face and softly caressed his cheek in her palm. She couldn't help gazing at the ring on her finger and the gems that sparkled like the stars which were beginning to come out in the night sky. "You have a beautiful taste in rings, Mr Guerin. I'm sorry I didn't say it before but I love this ring. It's perfect."

He brought her hand to his lips and kissed the ring. "Look inside it." He told her.

Maria gently slipped the ring off and saw the inscription on the inside of the band. She gasped and her eyes watered, a tear running down her cheek which Michael softly wiped away.

The ring had two letter M's interwoven with a heart engraved on the inside of the band and the inscription simply said, 'Forever yours'.


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Chapter Five

"God Michael, it's so beautiful. I can't believe you've done this." Maria buried her face in his neck and felt his arms wrap around her. She pulled away from his neck and kissed his cheek. "Where did you get the ring?" She asked him.

Michael turned his head quickly and captured her lips with his, kissing her slowly and using his tongue to ease open her lips. He gently caressed her tongue with his and thoroughly explored her mouth. Maria could sense him about to pull back and so moving her hands quickly she trapped his face between her palms keeping him in place. She proceeded to explore every crevice of his mouth with her tongue before withdrawing and nibbling on his lower lip.

"God, Maria.....I.....I love you......so much....." Michael managed to say between breathing in gulps of air. "You are so amazing......I don't know what I'd do without you."

Maria continued trailing kisses all over his face and was moving towards his neck. "Well you're not going to find that out because you're stuck with me, Mister." Maria told him adamantly.

"Good."

"So, Michael, where did you get my ring?" Maria asked.

"Uh.....well, I kinda designed it myself." He replied a little shyly.

"Wow, really?"

"Yeah, I knew what I wanted the inscription to read and I also really wanted the ring to include emeralds 'cos......they.......they remind me of your eyes." Michael coughed trying to clear his throat of its sudden huskiness before continuing. "Anyway, I took my design to a couple of jewellery stores to see if they had anything similar. They didn't really have anything I liked but they both offered to keep a copy of my design and call me if and when anything similar came in. I then got a call from one of them a couple of months ago saying they'd got some new rings in and asking me to go down there and take a look, so I did and I found your ring. All I then had to do was have them engrave it with the inscription."

Maria leaned into his neck and gently licked his skin, savouring the clean, salty taste. "Thank you, Michael."

Suddenly a thought crossed Maria's mind and she pulled away from Michael's neck and looked at him feeling a little confused.

"Maria, what is it? What's wrong?" He asked her.

"Um......It's just.....How long have you been thinking of proposing to me, Michael?" Maria asked stunned. She had thought this was something that he had maybe been planning for a few weeks tops. From what Michael was saying it was more like months than weeks.

'Damn. Nice time to slip up there, man.' Michael thought to himself. "Okay, don't freak out. Just listen to me and don't interrupt. Please." Michael said playing with a strand of Maria's hair.

Maria nodded in agreement.

"After I decided to stay on earth I knew that someday I wanted to marry you. You were the only one I could ever picture myself marrying. Anyway, that summer we spent together was great. But then all of a sudden everything got turned upside down with Max and Liz getting arrested and then with Isabel meeting Jesse and wanting to tell him the truth about her. Like I said earlier, I know I've often taken you for granted, particularly after our disastrous date at the bowling alley. After that, I just wanted to try and make you happy." Michael stopped for a moment resting his head against Maria's.

"I could see that when you smiled it never seemed to reach your eyes and I should have brought it up, let you talk to me about how you really felt but I didn't. I pretended I didn't notice. I guess I was too scared to find out what was bothering you........You know, in case I was the reason. I was wrong to ignore it and even more wrong to ignore you. Somehow I thought getting married would make things okay but then Jesse proposed to Isabel and kinda stole my thunder. I planned on asking you at Christmas but by then we weren't together. So, I put the ring away somewhere safe and hoped that someday I'd get to ask you."

Maria brought her hands up to Michael's face and stroked his cheeks with her thumbs. "I can't believe it. All that time we were apart and you had a ring..........an engagement ring for me."

"Maria, listen. We broke up for a reason and yes, it hurt both of us but looking back I know it was for the best. If we hadn't broken up, then maybe we'd have gotten engaged when I originally planned on proposing but maybe we'd have broken up anyway with little to no chance of getting back together. While we were apart I realised that getting married without dealing with things first wouldn't have solved our problems. You needed the break away from me to find yourself again. To find out what it was you really wanted and what made you happy. You came back to me, Maria, and I'm so glad you did."

"Me too." Maria replied leaning into him and kissing him but pulling away before he could deepen it.

"Hey." He said laughing. "So......um.....are we good?" He asked her.

Maria scooted off Michael's lap and before he knew what was happening she was straddling him. "Yes, Michael. We are definitely good." She answered as she ran her hands all over his chest and slowly started to unbutton his shirt. She leaned down and began placing gentle kisses over his now exposed chest. Michael couldn't help moaning at the feel of her lips on his skin and while she kissed his chest he ran his fingers through her soft hair. Maria started kissing her way back up towards his neck and then touched her lips softly to his. Michael didn't waste the opportunity and deepened the kiss, thrusting his tongue into her mouth tasting her unique flavour.

Maria gently pulled away while Michael's lips travelled along her jaw and then down her neck. "God, Michael, I want you so much. I love you........I really do."

"I want you too. Um.........Honey......Do you want to go home now, or........" He let his question trail off as he began kissing along one of her exposed shoulders.

"Michael, I can't wait. I want you........now." Maria replied running her fingers through Michael's hair.


*********


Chapter Six

Michael looked at where they were sitting and satisfied that he had chosen a relatively secluded spot for their picnic, he ran one of his hands up Maria’s back until he reached the ties securing her halter top. Bringing his other hand up he slowly undid them. Maria in the meantime had managed to completely unbutton Michael’s shirt and it was now hanging from his shoulders. He shrugged the shirt off and then took hold of the hem of Maria’s top and brought it up and over her head so that they were both topless.

Michael laid back on the blanket bringing Maria with him, their chests pressing together. He ran his hands all over her back and smiled when he felt her shiver. “What do you want, sweetie?” He whispered seductively in her ear. “Tell me.”

“I......I want you to touch me.......all over.” She managed to get out as Michael licked and then sucked on the smooth skin of her throat.

“Okay, I can do that.” He said smiling against her throat before he quickly flipped them over so Maria was now underneath him.

Maria squealed in surprise but that soon changed to a happy sigh as Michael’s lips kissed their way down her neck and along her collarbone. She wound her fingers in his hair urging him to move lower and was more than pleased when he complied. He placed a kiss at the top of each breast before suddenly engulfing one of them into his hot mouth sucking furiously while his hand massaged the other.

“Oh my God, Michael.........Don’t stop.......Don’t you dare stop.........This feels so good....” Maria cried out while she raked her nails gently down Michael’s back, something she knew he loved.

Michael switched his mouth to her other breast giving it the same treatment but this time he nibbled on her erect nipple before suckling it. He knew how much Maria enjoyed it by the way she was writhing beneath him and by the way her hands were pressing on his ass urging his lower body closer to hers. While he gently bit down on her nipple he ran one of his hands down her side and then under her skirt loving the feel of her soft thigh. He eased her leg over his hip and she brought it higher so her bare leg was touching his naked lower back.

Maria brought her hands down his chest stopping to pinch his nipples which made Michael moan in pleasure. Her hands then moved over the muscles of his flat stomach and continued on their downward path. Once she’d reached his belt she made quick work of undoing it and unzipping his fly. Using her hands and legs she managed to push his pants down and wasn’t surprised to find that Michael was as usual going commando.

Maria was loving the feel of Michael’s lips on her breasts and while she had a pretty good idea that it wouldn’t be long before he would move lower and go down on her which she more often than not craved, she didn’t want to wait for him to be inside her. She knew there would be plenty of time to take it slow later. So before Michael could work his way down her body, Maria hooked her hands under his arms and brought his face level with hers. “Kiss me, Michael.”

“Your wish is my command, Princess.” He said smiling wickedly before pressing his lips against hers in a bruising kiss. Maria kissed him back just as hard biting and sucking on his lips.

“Take off my skirt, Baby.” She commanded breathlessly as they broke the kiss.

“Hey, you must have read my mind.” He replied just as breathless as she was and rolled them over again so Maria was lying on top of him. She moved and sat astride his stomach as he ran his hands from her shoulders to her waist and released the ties holding the wraparound leather skirt together. He peeled the cloth away and ran his hands all over her baby soft skin loving the feel of her and the gasps he was eliciting. All Maria wore now was her black thong and her sandals. Michael was hoping he could persuade her to keep the sandals on as there was something very erotic about her being naked save for her high heels.

“That’s it.......Keep touching me......” Maria trailed off loving how Michael knew all the places she loved to be touched.

“Maria........you feel so good. Are you............are you sure you want to do this out here?” He asked her trying to keep an innocent look on his face.

“Michael.....I swear if you stop now.........I won’t be responsible for my actions.” She responded scraping her nails along his sensitive nipples and down his stomach liking how he held his breath wondering how far her hands would travel.

“’Ria, baby, can you take my boots off for me and then get my pants off the rest of the way?” He asked.

Instead of answering him, Maria swivelled round so she was sitting astride him albeit a little lower and reached forward to unlace his boots which she managed to do in record time. Once she’d got them both off together with his socks and pants she moved back up taking the opportunity of grinding her thong covered p*ssy against his hard c*ck loving the way he thrust up encouraging her to repeat the action. Maria turned so she was once again facing him and kept grinding herself against him and before she knew it Michael had ripped the thong from her body throwing it to one side. He then ran his hands along her body from her shoulders down past her stomach and then lower still using two of his fingers to feel how wet she was.

“More.......Please......Michael........”

“Shhhh, it’s okay........Just let it go.........I’ve got you.......” Michael said thrusting the two fingers deep inside her p*ssy and using his thumb to tease her clit. He used a torturously slow pace and couldn’t help smiling when Maria started moving her body faster trying to increase the pace. In response Michael gripped her hip with his free hand stilling her movements. “Uh huh, Baby.............Just take it easy..........Like I said, I’ve got you.”

“Dammit, Michael. Do it faster.........I’m so close.......Please.........”

Michael released her hip and brought his hand up to one of her breasts first massaging it and then rolling her nipple before pinching it making the little nubbin even harder than it already was. He then moved that hand to the other breast covering it with his palm and closed his eyes enjoying the feeling of her warm supple body. He suddenly felt Maria’s hand over his on her breast urging him to squeeze it like he did the other and he complied willingly. Michael opened his eyes and was surprised at how close Maria’s face was to his own and he quickly captured her lower lip between his sucking it into his mouth loving how breathless he was making his fiancée. ‘God, that sounds good.’ He thought to himself smiling against her mouth.

“What’cha smiling about, baby?” Maria asked him trailing one arm behind herself to lightly caress his balls. She heard his breath hitch in his throat when she raked her nails along them and couldn’t help giggling at how vulnerable she was able to make him just by using her hands.

“What was that, honey? I didn’t quite catch your answer.”

In retaliation he slowed his pace even more so that the fingers he had buried in her p*ssy were hardly moving at all which caused her to cry out.

“Michael..........Please..........Don’t tease.........” Maria was practically sobbing with frustration.

“I was smiling because I realised you’re not my girlfriend any more, Maria. You’re now my fiancée.”

The smile Maria suddenly rewarded him with seemed to stretch from ear to ear. “And you’re my fiancé, Michael.”

While he caressed the walls of her p*ssy and she fondled his balls they brought their lips together and shared one of the most intense kisses of their relationship. When they eventually broke apart they rested their foreheads together while trying to get their breath back.

“I want to make love to you, Michael. Now. I can’t wait any longer.”

“Me either, Baby. Um.........Sweetie, are we still good? Um......I mean, are you still on the pill?” Michael asked quietly in her ear and rubbing his cheek gently against hers.

Maria nodded yes to his question. She gently stroked his length loving the feel of his hot, hard c*ck in her hand and then moved herself so once again she was sitting in his lap. Michael placed his hands on Maria’s hips while she maneuvered herself over his c*ck and slid herself down his throbbing length. She couldn’t help the cry that left her lips as he entered her and gripped his shoulders hard as she moved herself up and down. Michael, whose hands on her hips were helping her move, opened his legs wider which made Maria sink down further so his c*ck was fully embedded within her.

“Harder, Michael.........Yeah.......Yeah, that’s it........F*ck me........Yes.......That feels so good......”

Michael loved the expression on Maria’s face, the way she was deeply concentrating on what he was doing to her. He let out a long moan as she tightened her walls around him. He was close. He didn’t know if he would be able to last much longer. The friction they created was something he thought he’d never get enough of. He moved one hand from her hip down towards her p*ssy and slowly circled her clit. Maria suddenly opened her eyes and moved her face towards him and kissed him. Michael was about to close his eyes when he noticed that she was keeping her eyes open so she could watch his face as they kissed, and this sent a jolt of electricity through his whole body.

“Maria........Maria........Love you........so much.........” He mumbled as he reluctantly pulled out of the kiss to breathe in some much needed air.

Maria moved a hand down and rested it on his which was stimulating her clit and she encouraged his movements. After a few moments he could feel her orgasm approaching and so moved her faster along his c*ck so she was practically bouncing on it, her breasts jiggling enticingly and he couldn’t help capturing one of her nipples between his lips, sucking it hard.

Maria’s hand moved from where it was resting on his hand down to the base of his c*ck and she started jerking him off inside her. Michael, sensing his oversensitised body was about to explode, teased her clit faster and faster and suddenly her p*ssy muscles tightened one last time before she came, screaming his name out into the night. A few seconds later Michael’s orgasm followed, and he shouted out her name.

Maria slumped against Michael’s chest and his arms circled her waist holding her as close as he could. “Michael.........That was.........I mean......It was amazing. I mean.....God.....I don’t know what I mean........”

Michael slowly moved his hands up and down her back, caressing her softly. “I know exactly what you mean. It’s always been intense between us but............I’ve never felt like that before. If that’s what getting engaged does, then we should definitely have done it sooner.” He said laughing.

“Ditto, Spaceboy.” Maria agreed rubbing her hands along Michael’s biceps. “So, how ‘bout we get out of here and go back to your place where we can continue this in a nice comfortable bed. Also it’s getting a little cold now.”

Michael pulled away and glanced down at her breasts and on seeing her erect nipples replied, “So I see.”

Maria swatted him on the arm laughing. “I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted. My body feels too tired to move.”

“Stay where you are for a minute while I get dressed. I’ll take care of you, okay?”

“Okay.” She replied moving off of him and allowing him to get up. Michael quickly got dressed, and gathered Maria’s clothes and dressed her before picking her up and carrying her to the car. “You stay there while I pick up our picnic stuff and then we’ll go home and I’ll run us a nice hot bath. How does that sound?” He asked.

“Mmmmm, that sounds terrific.”

Michael quickly gathered up all their belongings putting them in the trunk before he got into the driver’s seat. He looked over at Maria who was sitting curled up towards him in the passenger seat with an enormous smile on her face. She reached out her hand and stroked his cheek.

“Thank you for tonight, Michael. It was perfect and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.”

Michael turned his face and pressed a kiss into her palm. “Me either.”

He started the engine and then put the car in gear. “Come on then, fiancée. Let’s go home.”


*********


Chapter Seven

After arriving at Michael’s apartment and carrying in all their picnic paraphanalia, both he and Maria collapsed onto the couch exhausted.

“Hey, Michael, don’t get too comfortable there ‘cos you’ve got a bath to run.” Maria teased.

“Okay, okay. Just give me a minute to recover.” He leaned over and pulled her into his arms burying his face in her neck and blowing raspberries. “For some strange reason my legs feel like jell-o. Now I know why you always hear sportsmen saying they never have sex before a game.” Michael said while laughing.

“Michael, it’s a good job you’re not a sportsman ‘cos I plan on f*cking you so hard and for so long that you’d never get to play for your team.” She replied seductively while running her fingers up and down his arms.

The two of them sat in a comfortable silence until Michael got up from the couch. “Right, let’s run this bath. Do you want me to put in any of that herbal bath oil you brought over the other week?” He asked.

“You mean the one you asked me to bring because it has what you called ‘a manly smell’ instead of my usual girly crap. Sure, put some of that in. It’s supposed to have healing properties so maybe it’ll restore our strength so we can go for round two, if ya know what I mean.” Maria said wiggling her eyebrows.

“Oh, I definitely know what you mean. Anyway, I never said I didn’t like your girly stuff. You know I love the way it smells on you. It’s just that I don’t want to be smelling all girly, you know.”

As Michael got up from the couch Maria grabbed hold of his arm and said, “I don’t think you could smell girly if you tried. Sometimes you smell good enough to eat.”

Michael leaned down and kissed her. “Thanks, honey. I’ll keep that in mind for later.” He said before walking out of the room.

While Michael was in the bathroom Maria lay on the couch thinking over that night’s activities. ‘I can’t believe I’m an engaged woman.’ She thought to herself smiling. ‘Wait until Liz finds out, she’ll totally freak.’ Suddenly the smile left Maria’s face as she realised there was a strong possibility that Liz may not share Maria’s enthusiasm. ‘She’ll probably be jealous because not only is Isabel married, but I’m now engaged while Max doesn’t seem anywhere near proposing to her.’ Maria was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice Michael standing beside the couch watching her.

“Hey, whatcha thinking about? You look really serious lying there. You’re not..........I mean, you don’t regret saying yes, do you?” Michael asked fearfully.

“What? No. No, I don’t. Baby, come here.” Maria pulled him down so he was lying on top of her and caressed his face with her palms. “I was just thinking about what Max and Liz are going to say when we tell them we’re engaged. I’ve got this feeling they’re not going to be too happy. But, you know what? I don’t care. Besides, at least Mom’s on our side which is a helluva lot more important, right?”

“Right. Also, we’re not rushing into marriage so that should count for something too. I know for a fact that Max will say we’re too young and ramble on for who knows how long without saying much of anything, but at least we can say we’re waiting for a couple of years. It’s not like we’re getting married in a month or anything.” Michael said.

“Exactly. Okay, back to more important matters, is my bath ready yet?” Maria asked smiling.

“Yes, M’lady. Would you like to walk or be carried?”

“I want to be carried which is the least you can do after wearing me out like that earlier on, but if you’re too tired...........”

“I’m never too tired for you.” Michael said bending down and scooping her up into his arms and carrying her into the bathroom.


*********


Maria lay back in the bath resting against Michael’s chest and enjoyed the hot water lapping around her. Michael was lazily drawing patterns on Maria’s stomach while he thought about what they had been discussing earlier concerning Max and Liz. He knew Max would be pissed but hoped that maybe for once Isabel would be on his side. After all, she had gone ahead and married Jesse and probably would have still married him even if Max and their parents hadn’t come around to the idea. Michael knew that while he had also objected to Isabel bringing Jesse into the group and had agreed with Max about her not telling him the truth, he had been the first to congratulate her on her engagement. Surely that had to count for something.

“Spaceboy.” Maria’s sing-song voice brought him out of his reverie, “Where were you? I’ve been calling you for the past few minutes.”

“Really? I’m sorry, I was just thinking about the Max and Liz thing we were talking about earlier. What do you think about us trying to get Isabel on side before we say anything to them? We could tell her before we tell them and then officially tell everyone together and she could pretend she didn’t know but congratulate us if Max and Liz don’t? God, I think I’m babbling. I sound like you............no offense. Did what I just said make any sense?”

“It’s okay, none taken and yes, it made sense. But what if Iz doesn’t think us getting married is a good idea? I doubt very much that she’d lie for us, especially to Max.?”

“Yeah, I know. But I did come round first to the idea of her marrying Jesse so that should count in my favour. If we do this though we’ll have to make sure she never lets on that she knew before Max and Liz.”

“Definitely. Liz would never let me forget the fact that I didn’t tell my best friend first.” Maria agreed before turning over in the water so she was lying on top of Michael. “I always seem to be on top lately.” She said rubbing her hands over his chest and moving herself closer licking the side of his neck.

“Do you want to get out the bath and get comfy in bed or fool around in here?” Michael asked raising his eyebrows suggestively.

Maria giggled in response. She leaned up and licked his lips before kissing him softly. “Bed.” She whispered against his lips. Michael brought his arms around her back holding her tight as he crushed his lips to hers and kissed her hard.

“Okay, lets go.” Michael said releasing her from his embrace.

Maria stood up and Michael couldn’t help staring at her as droplets of water glistening with bath oil ran down her body. He couldn’t help reaching out and running his hands up the sides of her long legs. He loved the way Maria shivered at his touch and letting go of her he too stood up in the bath. He grabbed the shower attachment, turned it on and after finding a comfortable temperature he rinsed both Maria and himself off. He stepped out of the bath and grabbed a towel for himself which he quickly wrapped around his waist and then grabbed one for Maria. She took the towel from him and wrapped it around herself and Michael then carefully lifted her up and carried her into their bedroom. Just as they were drying each other off, there was a knock at the door.

“Dammit! Who the hell’s that? If that’s Max, he’s deadmeat. I told him I wanted the place to myself tonight.”

“Michael, honey, calm down. It’s okay. Just go and see who it is. Maybe it’s important.” Maria said, trying to soothe him by stroking his back.

Michael grabbed a pair of sweatpants from his dresser putting them on quickly as the knocking became more insistent. He strode towards the door and opened it forcefully. ‘I should have known he wouldn’t listen.’ Michael thought to himself.

Max stood there holding hands with Liz, both of them wearing big smiles which they suddenly lost when they saw the look Michael was giving them. “Michael, why are you looking at us like that? What’s your problem?” Max asked him sounding annoyed.

“I’m sorry. Did you just ask me what my problem was? I think you know, Maxwell. Did I or did I not specifically ask you to find somewhere else to sack out tonight to give me and Maria some space?”

“Oh that. Well Liz thought that as it was late you’d probably be in your room and be okay with us hanging out here.”

“No, it’s not okay. Our date hasn’t finished yet and the last thing we want is for it to continue while you’re here.” Michael rubbed his hand over his face trying to calm down a little. “Look, I don’t mean to piss you off but this is my apartment and Maria and I have only just got back together so I want to be able to spend some time with her. Alone.” He looked at both Max and Liz and where Max seemed to accept what he was saying, he could see the anger in Liz’s eyes which served to fuel his own temper. “What? What is it, Liz?”

“I can’t believe how selfish you’re being Michael. You and Maria have had all night to be together so I think the least you can do is let us spend some time together here. Max and I have nowhere else to go.”

“And whose fault is that Liz? If you and Max hadn’t been so stupid in the first place as to carry out a robbery and get yourselves arrested you wouldn’t be in this position with your parents.”

Maria, hearing the raised voices, got up from the bed and grabbed one of Michael’s shirts. She quickly put it on and buttoned it up grateful that it was one of his longer ones which hung down past her thighs. She walked out into the living room and over to where Michael was standing and rested her hand on his back. “Hey guys, what’s going on?” She asked smiling at Max and Liz.

“Hey, Maria. Max and I just thought we’d drop by and hang out. You don’t mind do you?” Liz asked a little too sweetly.

“Oh....um.....I’m sorry Liz but Michael and I are still on our date. Maybe we can do something tomorrow, okay?” Maria replied.

For some reason Liz couldn’t put her finger on, she was feeling angry. “Fine, whatever you say. So, where is Max supposed to stay tonight, huh? It’s not like he can go home to his parents is it?”

Michael had had enough. “Hey! It’s not like I didn’t give Max some notice about wanting the apartment tonight. Maybe he can try Isabel’s place.”

Liz grabbed Max’s hand and started to walk away from the door. “Come on Max, let’s go. I don’t want to stay somewhere I’m not wanted.”

Maria called out. “Liz, please. Don’t be like this. We just want to spend some time together. Surely you of all people can understand that.”

When Max didn’t make a move, Liz sighed and dropped his hand before walking over to the Chevelle and got in, slamming the door in the process. Max smiled apologetically at Maria. “I’m sorry. I told her we shouldn’t have come over but for some reason she wouldn’t listen. I’d already asked Isabel if I could stay at her and Jesse’s tonight and she agreed and I left my overnight bag there already. Don’t worry Maria, I’ll talk to Liz and I’m sure she’ll call you tomorrow to apologise.”

“Thanks, Max. I just wish I knew what her problem was. You’d better go before her eyes bore holes into us from the way she’s glaring.”

“See ya, Maxwell.” Michael called out to Max’s retreating back before he closed the door. “What the hell is Parker’s problem? God knows what she’s going to be like when she finds out we’re engaged.”


*********


Chapter Eight

After Michael had closed the door he took Maria by the hand, leading her over to the couch and sat down. He pulled her down after him so she was sitting in his lap and he wrapped his arms around her.

“Don’t let her get to you, Maria. I don’t know what bug crawled up her ass to make her act like that, but I’m sure as hell not going to let her ruin our night, okay?”

Maria nodded and wrapped her arms around his neck holding him tight as she felt the tears run down her cheeks. ‘Why can’t Liz be happy for me for once?’ She asked herself.

Michael pulled away slightly and looked into her eyes, angry that once again Liz had made her cry. Using the pads of his thumbs he gently wiped away her tears and brought her close again for another cuddle. “Don’t give her the satisfaction, Maria. I know she’s your best friend and you love her, but I get so mad when I see the way she dismisses you and your feelings for me, whether she means to or not.”

“You’re right, Michael. This night has been so perfect and I think we should pretend that that didn’t just happen and get on with what we were going to do. What do you say?” Maria asked as she wiped away the last of her tears and smiled at her fiancé.

“Um, let me think about it for a moment........” Michael replied holding his chin between his thumb and forefinger as if in thought. Maria squealed in surprise as Michael suddenly stood up and scooped her up in his arms before practically running to the bedroom.


*********


“Maria, honey, are you hungry?” Michael asked her, trying to get his breath back. He was lying on his back with Maria sprawled out on his chest, both of them feeling relaxed and sated.

“A little bit, I guess. It seems like hours ago that we had our picnic.” Maria replied nibbling on his neck.

“That’s probably ‘cos it was hours ago. So, what would you like? I could make us something or I think there are a few things left over from our picnic that I put in the fridge when we got home.”

Maria’s eyes lit up as she remembered something. “Yeah, leftovers sound good.”

A moment later Michael said, “Do I have to move? For some reason my energy levels seem zapped.”

“Oh, poor baby. I can’t think why. It’s okay, I’ll go. I guess it’s my turn to do something for you.” Maria answered getting up out of the bed. She grabbed the shirt which she had worn earlier from the floor where it had landed a few hours ago and put it on, only doing up a couple of the buttons. Michael leaned up on his elbows watching her. He loved the way Maria looked when she wore any of his clothes and he especially loved how mussed up she always looked after they had made love. She almost seemed to glow.

While Maria was in the kitchen Michael plumped up the pillows and tidied up the bed from their earlier escapades before he sat back and rested against the headboard. He looked up at the ceiling with a smile on his face. ‘Thank you for bringing her back to me. I promise I’ll always take really good care of her.’ Michael didn’t know who or what he was thanking but it just felt like the right thing to do at that moment.

When Michael had mentioned the word ‘leftovers’ Maria remembered the two pots of chocolate mousse they had agreed to save for later. Opening up the fridge she grabbed the mousse and then noticed the can of whipped cream which she also picked up. She placed the items on a tray together with a couple of bottles of water and Michael’s trusty bottle of tabasco. Picking up the tray Maria made her way back towards the bedroom, making a quick detour first to grab something from her bag which she had left by the couch. She walked into the bedroom where she laid the tray down next to Michael whose eyes never left her as she stripped off the shirt and climbed back into bed.

“What?” Maria asked him smiling.

Smiling back he answered, “Nothing.”

“Michael, I just.......I just wanted to say thanks. You know, for taking my mind off what happened earlier with Li........”

Placing his fingers over her lips Michael interrupted her and said, “Uh huh, we’ll deal with all that stuff tomorrow, okay? Let’s just enjoy the rest of our night.” He leaned towards her and kissed her softly.

Maria pulled back slightly and then leaned her forehead against his. “Okay.”

“Good. So, what food did you bring?”

She pointed to the tray and couldn’t help laughing at the smile that seemed to take over Michael’s face. “I guess that smile means you approve of my choice, huh?” She teased.

“I definitely approve.” Michael confirmed before he moved the tray over to his nightstand to make more room for them to move. “So, do we eat it or play with it? And if we play with it who gets to go first?”

“We do both and I get to go first. Like I said before, it’s my turn to take care of you. Is that okay with you?”

“It’s more than okay.” Michael answered maneuvering himself so he was lying on his back. Maria straddled his body and leaned over to grab one of the pots of mousse and the can of cream and as she did so Michael leaned up and captured one of her nipples in his mouth, sucking hungrily. She quickly grabbed the items and placed them on the bed before she moved away from Michael’s reach. “Bad boy. It’s my turn so you have to let me work without any interruption.” Maria took hold of each of his hands and placed them on the headboard. “Now keep them there. If you touch me I’ll stop what I’m doing. Got it?”

“Okay, okay! Got it. Now stop talking and put that mouth to good use.” Michael said smirking.

In retaliation for that remark Maria pinched both of his nipples hard which made his c*ck twitch against her thigh. Peeling back the foil on the pot of mousse Maria dipped her finger in coating it in the chocolate and then popped it into her mouth licking all the chocolate off. Keeping her eyes trained on Michael’s which seemed to smoulder with passion, she repeated the process this time offering her finger to him. She watched as he seemed to move forward in slow motion and licked her finger clean, gently nipping it with his teeth.

“God, Michael. You are so hot........” Dipping two of her fingers into the pot she applied the chocolate to his nipples and then smeared more of the gooey substance along his stomach and all the way down to his groin before covering his throbbing erection with what was left in the pot. Shaking up the can of whipped cream she then sprayed liberal amounts of cream over the mousse. Satisfied that she had covered Michael’s body to her satisfaction, Maria leaned forward first, careful not to damage her work, and kissed him hard pulling away before he could deepen the kiss. She then moved down, kissing and sucking on his flesh, never staying in one place for too long. Slowly moving down she circled each nipple in turn licking off the cream before sucking the nipple into her mouth and biting it gently.

Michael gasped in pleasure and gripped his headboard tighter. “Maria........Maria......Oh my God.........” He couldn’t wait for her to reach her final destination and his body ached in anticipation of feeling her mouth on his over sensitized body.

Maria moved on from his nipples and licked the cream from his strong stomach muscles which quivered with each stroke and used her tongue to spell out certain letters of the alphabet. “Are you concentrating on what I’m doing, Spaceboy? Can you tell me what I just spelt out?” She asked.

“Uh......hmmm......You spelt out.......um.....Maria loves Michael......Right?”

“Mmm mmm.....I’m glad to see my actions haven’t turned your brains to mush......yet.” Maria said giggling.

“Maria, baby......Are you gonna finish or..........?” Michael’s voice trailed off.

“Do you want me to finish?” She asked leaning back.

“Do you really need me to answer that question?” He asked raising his eyebrows at her.

In answer to his question, Maria moved down on the bed slightly and slowly licked the cream off the tip of his c*ck before she slowly moving down and sucking off the chocolate she had smeared on underneath.

Michael at first watched Maria’s head bobbing up and down his shaft before the pleasure became too much and he couldn’t help but close his eyes, savouring the feel of her hot, wet mouth on him.

Aware that he was no longer watching her, Maria released him from her mouth and used one of her hands to pump him slowly and with her other hand picked up the item she had earlier retrieved from her bag and popped it into her mouth. A few seconds later Maria bent her head again and licked a drop of precum from the tip before once again engulfing as much of his c*ck into her mouth as she could.

“HOLY F*CK!!! SH*T!!” Michael shouted out. He couldn’t believe the sensations he was suddenly experiencing. His erection was tingling; one minute it felt cool and then it suddenly felt hot. It wasn’t a bad feeling but it felt different to anything he had experienced before. ‘What the hell is she using on me?’ He asked himself as he released his grip from the headboard and leaned up on his elbows to watch what Maria was doing to him. He watched intently, determined not to close his eyes this time, as she used a combination of her hands and mouth on him, alternating between swirling her tongue around the tip and then practically deepthroating him. One hand pumped the base while the other hand first caressed his balls and then raked her nails over them.

They had performed oral sex on each other on numerous occasions but because Michael had been worried about his alien chemistry, he had always insisted on wearing a condom when Maria had gone down on him. This was the first time she was doing it without one. Michael felt his balls tighten and knew he was about to cum and so warned Maria. “Maria, you have to stop. I’m gonna cum in a second. You gotta stop.”

Maria, hearing Michael’s warning, tightened her grip on the base of his shaft pumping him faster and faster, and swirled her tongue again around the head before she sucked him hard.

Michael could tell that Maria had no intention of releasing him and remembering her words from earlier about not touching her while she worked him, couldn’t help it and wound his fingers in her hair effectively holding her in place. A few seconds later he erupted inside Maria’s mouth and the sensation of her throat contracting to swallow his cum was one of the most intense feelings he had ever had. Slumping back on the pillows Michael’s hand continued stroking Maria’s hair.

“God, Maria. I can’t believe you did that. You have no idea how good that felt. Thank you.”

Once she had sucked him clean, Maria crawled her way up Michael’s body and kissed him, letting him taste his own cum on her lips. “You don’t have to thank me for anything. I love you, every bit of you and now we’re engaged I thought it was only right that I show you just how much.”

Michael kissed a path from her lips to her jaw and down to her throat as she continued talking.

“Spaceboy, I know you’ve been worried about us exchanging bodily fluids in the past but I don’t think it’s a problem. I mean, based on the amount of kissing we’ve done since day one of our on off relationship and the amount of saliva we’ve probably exchanged, the fact that nothing has happened I’d say proves it’s not a problem. I’ve been on the Pill for a while now and things seem to be okay on that score which I’m more than happy about ‘cos I love feeling you, all of you without any barriers. And someday we’re going to want to have babies and I just know everything will be fine. I don’t know how but I just do.”

“Um......Babies?”

“Yes, Michael. Babies. And they are going to be such perfect little babies because they will be a part of you and a part of me.”

“They’ll be beautiful if they take after you but I’ll bet they will be the biggest handfulls ever.” Michael teased her.

“They will be if they take after you.”

“Hey, I object to that.” He said, slapping her ass and then softly caressing it. “So, ‘Ria........Are you gonna tell me what the hell you were using when you were blowing me? I’ve never felt anything like it before.”

“Oh that. It’s just a tip I picked up in from a magazine article I read recently.”

“Yeah, and? What was it? It felt cool and tingly at first and then it started to feel hot in a really good way.”

“Well, the article I read said that if you ate a mint candy before oral sex it created a totally new sensation for your partner so when you weren’t watching I popped a mint into my mouth. So.......um......did you like it?”

“Um.......duh! I loved it. It......er........It blew my mind.”

Maria laughed out loud. “Not just your mind huh, baby.”

Turning her over so he now lay on top, Michael laughed too. “You can say that again, sweetie. So, we’ve still got a pot of chocolate mousse left..........Whatever shall I do?” He asked pinning both her hands above her head in one of his hands while the other circled her breasts and then her belly button.

“You tell me Spaceboy. I’m placing myself in your very talented and, may I just say, very large hands.” Maria said trying to stifle her laughter.

Releasing Maria’s hands but making sure she kept them above her head, Michael tore off the lid of the pot of mousse and using his powers warmed it slightly so the chocolate was a little more liquified. He dipped his finger in and drew a small heart around each of Maria’s nipples and then her navel. Dipping his finger into the pot again to get more chocolate he wrote something on the lower part of Maria’s stomach upside down so it would be easier for her to read from her position. Gesturing for her to sit up a little, Michael didn’t take his eyes off her once as she read what he had written and her smile made his heart soar.

In melted chocolate he had simply written, ‘Michael loves Maria.’


*********


Chapter Nine

Maria woke up with the sun streaming in through the window and she smiled. ‘Looks like today’s gonna be another great day. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I’m engaged to the most wonderful man in the whole world.’ She thought as she brought her left hand up to look at the beautiful ring he had given her last night before she slowly turned over in bed to face her fiancé. Resting her head between his shoulder and chest she trailed a finger over his lips and squealed in surprise when he quickly captured her finger between his lips.

“Hey, I thought you were still asleep.”

“I know you did.” He lifted his head and moved closer as if to kiss her before she stopped him. “I don’t know if you want to risk my horrible morning breath......” He ignored her and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. “Mornin’ baby.”

“Good morning to you too. You must really love me to want to kiss me first thing in the morning before I’ve even brushed my teeth.”

“I think we proved how much we love each other last night so I don’t think your morning breath, or mine for that matter, will break us up. Besides, you’ll notice that I didn’t use my tongue. We can save those kisses for after we’ve both brushed our teeth, what do you say?”

“You seem to think of everything, Spaceboy.” Laying her head on his chest again Maria asked, “So, what do you have planned for us today?”

“Nothing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get us out of our morning shifts at the CrashDown so we’re both working. Speaking of work, we’d better get moving if we don’t want to be late. You can have the first shower and I’ll have breakfast ready for when you’ve finished.” Michael informed her as he got out of bed and pulled on his sweats and the shirt Maria had borrowed from him last night.

“I wish we didn’t have to go to work today, Michael.”

Sitting down next to her on the bed Michael took her left hand in his. “I know, me either. But just think of it this way, the money we earn can be put towards our wedding because knowing you it’s probably gonna be expensive.”

Maria smiled up at him. “Firstly, good thinking and secondly, you know it. Anyway, that thought alone will definitely make today much easier to bear.” Hooking her arm around his neck she brought his face down to hers for a kiss. “I have a question though, what do I do about my ring if we’re not telling Liz or Max yet? I really don’t want to take my ring off but if I wear it Liz will definitely notice.”

Without any hesitation Michael said, “Screw ‘em! Why should we lie about something we’re both happy and comfortable with. I know I said we should try and get people on side before we tell the two of them but I’ve changed my mind. We should just tell people and if they don’t like it, then tough. The fact that Amy is on our side is enough for me and I’m done worrying about what Max and Isabel will say or think about the things I do.”

Maria sat up in bed and threw her arms around Michael’s neck. “I agree, Michael. Besides, I think Isabel and Jesse will be okay about it and I think maybe even Kyle and Jim will be too. If my own best friend can’t be happy for me, then that’s something she has to deal with. I’m determined that nothing or no one is going to come between us.”

Moving out from her embrace Michael caressed the side of Maria’s face and kissed her. “Ditto.” He got up from the bed and pulled her up with him. “Come on, get in the shower and I’ll put some coffee on. Just think, the sooner we get going the faster we can come back here and.........ya know.” He said wiggling his eyebrows and making Maria laugh.

“Okay, I’m up. I’m up. I just wish you could join me in the shower though.” She said pouting.

“Me too, but we both know if I do, then we ain’t leaving this apartment for a few more hours. Somehow I don’t think Mr Parker would be too happy to have his cook and one of his waitresses turn up after the breakfast rush do you?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Maria answered as she got out of the bed and walked towards the bathroom. Michael watched until her naked body was out of sight before shaking his head and walking out of the bedroom and into his kitchen to start making his and Maria’s breakfast.


*********


Liz watched Maria and Michael in the break room laughing and whispering to each other and she suddenly felt a bolt of jealousy shoot through her at their closeness. Coughing loudly she walked into the room and faced them. “Maria, when you’ve quite finished, there are people in your section waiting to be served. My dad asked me to come and get you.” She fibbed.

“Liz, I’ve only just sat down two minutes ago. Your dad told me to take my break now while it’s quiet and that he would cover for me since Agnes has disappeared again.” Maria answered before taking a drink of her soda. “If it’s really busy I’ll be out in a few minutes.”

“Don’t worry about it, Maria. You stay there with your boyfriend while the rest of us get on with our work. Don’t worry, I won’t be interrupting your precious break again.” Liz said before storming back out into the restaurant.

Maria sighed. “I don’t know how much more I can take of this, Michael. What the hell have I done to her to deserve this treatment. It’s not our fault if Max is consumed with searching for his son and isn’t spending much time with her. The only thing I can think of is that she’s jealous because we’ve gotten back together and are happy while she and Max are still trying to........”

“Maria, calm down. I don’t know what the hell is up with her but she’s not going to get away with it for much longer. I think we should go and see Max after work and see if he knows what’s up, although after last night I got the feeling he’s as much in the dark as we are.”

“Actually, instead of doing that why don’t you call Isabel and see if we can go round there after work. I want to share our good news with someone and seeing as that person isn’t going to be Liz, then I think Isabel’s the best one to tell. We can ask her if we can invite Kyle too. I was worried before about telling people before Liz but you know what? I really don’t care now.”

“Sshhh. It’s okay. Leave it to me and I’ll organise things. I’ll call Iz on my lunchbreak from the payphone across the street ‘cos I don’t want Nosey Parker eavesdropping and spoiling things. Why don’t you ask Mr Parker if you can leave a little bit early today so you can go home and get ready?”

“No, that’s okay. I don’t want to give Liz any more ammunition. Just ask Iz if we can go over to her place about seven ish or something. That way we can both finish here and get ready together.” Maria replied standing up and straightening her uniform.

“Okay, anything you say.” They both finished off their sodas and stole a quick kiss before heading off to their respective places in the restaurant.


*********


“Hello.”

“Hey Iz, it’s Michael. Are you free to talk?”

“Hi Michael. Yeah, I’ve just come out of my class so I’m free. What’s up?”

“I was just wondering if it’s okay if Maria and I come round to your place tonight. We’ve got some news and Maria for one is dying to share.”

“Sure, why don’t you both come round about seven thirty. Jesse will be home by then and I’ll get him to stop off and pick up some takeout on his way home. So, what’s the news?” Isabel asked.

“We’ll tell you when we see you but it’s good news. Definitely good news. By the way, is it okay if we invite Kyle too?”

“Yeah, why not. The more the merrier. I take it you want Max and Liz to come too.”

“Actually no. Liz is acting really strange with Maria at the moment and we both feel that telling Liz our news will just make things worse. So do you mind keeping our plans for tonight to yourself? I’ll tell Max the news later or something.”

“Okay, I’ll keep it quiet. Can you call Kyle and invite him over? There’s no need to let me know if he’s coming, I’ll just get Jesse to get plenty of food. Even if Kyle’s not able to come I know with you there the food will definitely get eaten.” Isabel said laughing.

“Thanks Iz. Yeah I’ll call him straight after I finish speaking to you. I’ll see you tonight, then. Okay, bye.”

Michael replaced the receiver and looked over to the CrashDown where he saw Liz standing outside watching him. ‘Damn. What the hell is that girl’s problem.’ Pretending he hadn’t seen her, he carried on with what he was doing and called Kyle at work. When Kyle answered Michael told him about his and Maria’s plans for that evening at Isabel’s and invited him along. Kyle said he would be there and he too promised he wouldn’t tell either Max or Liz should he see them first.

All the time he had been on the phone with Kyle, Michael had kept his eyes on Liz to make sure she didn’t sneak up on him and try and listen in on his conversation. The whole time Liz had made no attempt to hide the fact that she was watching him and Michael sighed. ‘What the hell is her problem.’ He asked himself again.


*********


Chapter Ten

“So, Maria. What’s going on?”

Maria looked up from where she was wiping down a table and saw Liz standing there watching her with her arms folded. “What do you mean, Liz?”

“I mean what’s going on with all the whispering between you and Michael and all the phone calls he’s been making from across the street? I’m supposed to be your best friend and I think I have a right to know what’s going on?”

“Yeah, I thought you were my best friend too up until recently. I guess that was until you started acting like a total bitch to me and my boyfriend. And what, are you spying on us now or something?”

“How dare you!” Liz hissed. “Of course I’m not spying on you. I have better things to do with my time than spy on a couple that breaks up every five minutes. God Maria, you and Michael really think everything revolves around you two. Well, I’m sorry to inform you but it doesn’t.”

Looking around her, Maria was relieved to see that the café’s remaining customers were seated a little way back from where she and Liz were standing having their heated conversation, and if they kept their voices down would probably go unheard.

“No, it doesn’t because everything always revolves around you and Max. I’ve lost count, Liz, of the number of times I’ve needed to talk to you about things that were going on in my life, and yes Michael being one of them, only to have you turn the conversation around so that once again it concentrated on you and your relationship with Max. According to you my relationship with Michael has only ever been a physical one.”

“Well it is. If the two of you aren’t making out you’re arguing with each other. I’m sorry Maria but really, how many times can one person listen to you bitching about Michael being a jerk and how he’s so inconsiderate all the time? If he’s that bad, then you shouldn’t have gotten back together with him.”

Maria couldn’t believe what she was hearing from her best friend and stood there openmouthed in shock. “That’s not true, Liz. Okay, so I’ve ranted about him a few times but sometimes I want to share the good stuff with you too, like the sweet, romantic things he does for me.”

“He probably only does those things to get in your pants, Maria. Everyone in Roswell knows that he’ll never make a commitment to you and I’m sorry to be the one to point it out to you but someone clearly has to. You need to face the fact that if Michael does stick around it’ll only be because you went and got yourself pregnant and your relationship will end up just like your parents’ marriage did before your dad took off. Do you really want that Maria? Huh? After what you and your mom went through, could you let the same thing happen to your own kids? Just think about the pain they would feel seeing their parents fighting all the time before their dad disappears never to be seen or heard of again.”

Maria could feel the tears welling up in her eyes and before Liz could say anything else she pushed past her and ran out the door leading to the break room and into the employees’ bathroom where she locked the door before breaking down in tears.

Sitting down on the floor leaning back on the wall, she brought her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them rocking herself back and forth.

‘She’s right. I shouldn’t have gone back to Michael in the first place and I definitely shouldn’t have agreed to marry him. What was I even thinking? Seeing Mom and Dad fighting all the time when I was little was so painful and I know that we’ll probably just fall into the same pattern as they did, and I don’t think I would be able to cope if he left me again. I don’t think I’m that strong.’ Maria felt dizzy with all the thoughts and questions running round and round in her head.


*********


Liz stared at Maria’s retreating form for a few seconds as she disappeared from view. ‘Why the hell did I just say all that? It’s not her fault that.............No! I’m not going to think about it. Maria’s all caught up in her so-called new and improved relationship with Michael and is letting him cloud her real feelings. In the end she’ll thank me for this. I know she will.’ Convinced that she was doing the right thing, Liz smiled before going over to check on the café’s remaining customers.


*********


Seeing Maria run past the kitchen, Michael called out to her but she ignored him and he saw her go into the bathroom slamming the door shut behind her. “Jose, listen, could you do me a favour and keep an eye on things for a sec? I just wanna check on Maria.” He asked the older man.

“Sure, Michael. Don’t take too long though ‘cos I’m due to go on break in a few minutes.”

Michael nodded at him before he walked over to the bathroom and knocked on the door. “Maria, honey, it’s me. Are you okay?” Not getting any response he became concerned and so checking to make sure no one was around, he placed his hand over the door handle and heard it unlock. Once inside he felt like his heart had dropped to his feet as he saw Maria huddled up in a corner on the floor rocking back and forth and crying silently. He quickly sat down beside her on the floor and brought his arms around her and placed her on his lap. “Oh my God, Maria. What’s happened? You can tell me. You can tell me anything, you know that?”

Maria couldn’t speak, the sobs stuck in her throat making her feel as if she was choking. All she could remember were Liz’s words to her.

“Everyone in Roswell knows that he’ll never make a commitment to you and I’m sorry to be the one to point it out to you but someone clearly has to. You need to face the fact that if Michael does stick around it’ll only be because you went and got yourself pregnant and your relationship will end up just like your parents’ marriage did before your dad took off. Do you really want that Maria? Huh? After what you and your mom went through, could you let the same thing happen to your own kids? Just think about the pain they would feel seeing their parents fighting all the time before their dad disappears never to be seen or heard of again.”

One of Michael’s hands rubbed her back while the other caressed her face, wiping away the tears that were still falling. “Please Maria. Tell me what’s wrong. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s the matter.”

Suddenly, Maria brought her hands up to her face knocking Michael’s hands away and she hid her face in her palms and composed herself, taking deep breaths. A moment later she got up from Michael’s lap and turned to face him as he stayed seated on the floor. “I’m sorry for scaring you, Michael, but I’m fine. I think you should call Isabel though and cancel tonight ‘cos there’s really nothing to celebrate anymore.”

Getting up from the floor Michael stood in front of her blocking her exit out of the bathroom. “What do you mean by that? We’re engaged so surely that’s reason enough to tell our friends and start to celebrate, isn’t it?”

Maria brought her left hand up and looked at it for a moment before she slowly removed the ring from her finger. “That’s just it Michael. We’re not engaged.” She reached out and took one of Michael’s hands in her own and placed the ring in his open palm before closing his fingers around it. “I’m sorry, Michael. You and I will never work. It’s bad enough breaking up and getting back together all the time while we’re just boyfriend and girlfriend, but I couldn’t deal with that happening once we were married. We would just clash all the time and fight and argue...........and I’m sorry but I can’t do that. I should never have said yes. I guess I was just carried away by the moment.”

She paused, trying to hold back the tears knowing that once she started to cry, she would never stop. “Please..........please don’t think I don’t love you because I do love you, Michael...........” All the time she was talking she was staring at his hand holding the ring.

“Yeah, well you’ve got a really funny way of showing it. I don’t get it Maria. Everything was fine this morning and now this. What the hell happened? And don’t say nothing ‘cos I know something must have.”

“I’m sorry, Michael, but it’s for the best. I just hope that in time you’ll be able to forgive me.” She said as she started to walk around him.

Blocking her Michael grabbed her chin in his empty hand and forced her to look him in the eye. “There’s nothing to forgive Maria because there’s no way in hell I’m letting you go. I’m gonna find out what happened and I’m gonna put it right. And I don’t believe for a second that you only accepted my proposal because you were caught up in the moment and the excitement or whatever. Something happened today and I’m gonna get to the bottom of it. Whatever happens know this, you and I are getting married.” With that Michael opened the door and walked out of the bathroom leaving Maria standing there watching him as fresh tears started falling from her eyes.


*********


Chapter Eleven

Michael lay on his couch and flicked through the channels on the TV while he stared into space. He couldn’t believe that last night he felt like the happiest man alive because he was engaged to the love of his life and now, not even a day later, he was sitting in his apartment alone feeling like his heart had been ripped out of his chest. ‘What the hell could have happened in such a short space of time?’ He asked himself, racking his brain to try and think of what he may have said or done for Maria to change her mind.

While Michael lay there in a world of his own the door to his apartment opened and he suddenly got up from the couch thinking that Maria had decided to come by to talk and work things out, but his smile quickly disappeared when he saw Max enter the room followed by Liz. Dejectedly, he sat down again and sighed loudly.

‘Great! Just what I need right now.’ He thought to himself.

“Hey, Michael. You don’t mind if Max and I hang out here for a little while do you? No, of course you don’t.” Liz said answering her own question and smiling at him while making herself at home by sitting down next to him. “Max, sweetie, can you get me a drink while you’re still standing? Thanks.” She asked in a sugar sweet voice.

“Ugh, I think I’m gonna puke.” Michael muttered under his breath.

Max nodded at her before walking over to the fridge and getting Liz a Snapple. He walked over to the couch and handed the bottle to Liz as he sat down next to her. He could tell from the thunderous look on Michael’s face that he had once again made a mistake in listening to Liz about hanging out at the apartment.

“So, Michael, where’s Maria tonight? I would have thought that you’d be together since Amy is still out of town.” Liz asked knowing full well that her best friend had broken up with him after she had preyed on Maria’s worst fears.

“Maria’s at her place tonight but I’ll probably go over there later or something.” He answered.

“Oh. Well,.......um.......Michael.....I wasn’t listening in or anything earlier but..........er........I couldn’t help hearing you two having words. I just think that you should maybe let her cool down a little first before you go and see her. I mean, you know how hot-headed Maria can be.”

“Have you and Maria had a fight already, Michael? I would have thought that after your date last night that everything would be great between you two.” Max said.

“No offence but this has nothing to do with either of you. Maria and I haven’t had a fight for your information, but I think someone may have said or done something which has upset her and she’s taking it out on me.” Suddenly a light bulb seemed to go off in his head and he remembered Liz watching him earlier that day and he also remembered thinking that he had heard Liz arguing with Maria in the café but he wasn’t completely sure.

“And when I find out who it was, they’re going to pay.” He looked pointedly at Liz and she quickly looked away. “Anyway, I’m going to check on her and see that she’s okay. I’ll see you later, Maxwell.” Michael said getting up from the couch and grabbing his jacket before he walked out of the apartment.


*********


‘Why the hell didn’t I think of it earlier?’ Michael asked himself. He knew there was something he couldn’t put his finger on when he was talking to Maria in the CrashDown earlier that day. ‘I bet Perfect Parker has said or done something to her. If I’m right, then she’s definitely going to pay the price.’

Michael had decided to walk to Maria’s place so he could think things through before he got there. While he was positive that Liz was the cause of his and Maria’s break-up, there was still a niggling worry that maybe Maria had come to her senses about her feelings for him and that maybe no one else was involved. There was always a possibility that she just didn’t want to marry him. Looking up he realised he was already at Maria’s place and he suddenly felt very nervous. His palms were sweaty and so he wiped them on his pants. ‘Okay, just play it cool and let her take her time. Try not to pressure her.’ He told himself. Walking up to the door he rang the bell and waited.


*********


Shrouded in darkness, Maria lay on the couch in her living room and flicked through the TV channels with the remote, not seeing anything. As soon as her shift had finished she had driven home as fast as she could without breaking the speed limit and once inside the safety of her home had flung herself down on the couch and cried for hours. Exhausted, she had fallen asleep on the couch for a few hours and once she was awake had gotten up to get herself a glass of water, and then turned on the TV before collapsing back onto the couch where she still remained.

The ringing of the doorbell startled her and she didn’t know what to do. Maria knew without a doubt who was behind the door and knew he could easily open the door himself if he wanted to.

“Maria, please let me in. I just want to talk to you, okay. Please don’t shut me out.” Michael’s voice called out to her from the other side of the door.

Maria stood up and slowly walked over to the front door. “Please, Michael, just go away. I don’t want to talk to you. Not tonight.” She placed her palm on the door at about the point where Michael’s face would be on the other side, touching it almost as if she was caressing his skin. “I’m sorry, Michael, but I can’t do this now okay?”

Michael let out a sigh. He badly wanted to use his powers to open the door but knew it would probably make things worse if he didn’t respect her request. “No, it’s not okay. I just want to know what’s going on. I’m sorry if you’re upset but what about me, huh? Am I not allowed to know the reason why my girlfriend accepts my marriage proposal only to turn around the next minute and say, ‘Oh, sorry. I made a mistake and shouldn’t have said yes after all.’ Am I not allowed to be upset and angry?” Letting out a deep breath, Michael rested his head on the door. “Please, Maria, just let me in. Just for a little while.”

On the other side of the door Maria’s hand wavered over the latch. ‘I can’t do this. I can’t see him tonight, I’m not strong enough to deal with this. He’s right though. He is entitled to an explanation, more than what I told him earlier.’ She argued with herself. ‘I wish Mom was here. She’d know what I should do.’ Maria felt fresh tears running down her cheeks. Her hand gripped the latch as, making her mind up, she slowly released it and opened the door.


*********


Chapter Twelve

Michael was staring down at the ground when all of a sudden he heard the familiar creak of the door opening. Quickly looking up he saw Maria’s face streaked with tears and could see new ones forming in her eyes. He moved forward and embraced her tightly breathing in her familiar scent. “It’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. Ever.” He slowly walked her backwards into the house, closing the door behind him. Seeing her slight imprint on the couch’s cushions and the TV on without any volume Michael frowned, knowing she had been laying there just as he had been doing at his place. Releasing Maria from his embrace for a moment he walked over to the TV and switched it off before walking back over to her and scooping her up in his arms. He slowly carried her up the stairs and made his way to her bedroom where he gently sat her on her bed, sitting down beside her and bringing her body in close to his. He felt slightly reassured by the fact that she had let him do it.

“Was Isabel mad?” Maria whispered.

“What, honey?”

“Was Isabel mad when you called and cancelled our plans with her and the others tonight?”

“No. I........I just said something had come up and we’d do it another night. It was still early when I called so she was able to stop Jesse picking up dinner for us all. Don’t worry about Isabel and the others, okay. They’re not important right now.”

“Oh. So............So you didn’t say anything about what we were going to tell them tonight?”

“No, I didn’t. When we tell them it’s going to be you and me together. Notice I said when and not if.” He said giving her an awkward smile.

Maria smiled a watery smile in return. “I........I did notice, Michael.”

Turning slightly so he could face her, Michael took Maria’s hands in his own and gently placed them on each side of his face. “Please tell me what I did, Maria. If it’s just that you’ve realised you don’t want to marry me, then I’ll understand. It’ll hurt but I’ll understand. But if it’s something else or even someone else who’s said or done something, then maybe I can help. I........I just need to know.”

Maria moved her palms resting on his face and softly caressed his cheeks as she slowly brought him closer to her own face and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. “You didn’t do anything, Michael, and it’s not that I don’t want to marry you. I do. It’s just.........What if it doesn’t work out? What if you realise you’ve made a terrible mistake somewhere down the line and you............you leave me. I don’t think I’d cope if what happened to my Mom after my Dad left happens to me.”

“Let’s get one thing straight, Maria. I’m never going to leave you. I know we can’t predict the future but I just know that I’ll never leave you. All those times I walked away from you hurt me just as much as they hurt you even though I acted like they didn’t, and then when you broke up with me after I made you tell Billy to leave town..........it......it broke my heart. But we both know now that it was a good thing because it brought us here, to this point where I want to make a real commitment to you.”

Michael paused letting his words sink in. “Just because you’re parents split up and your dad took off doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to us. I know me walking away from you all those times hasn’t helped convince you of that, but what I can do is make you a promise that if we go through any difficulties in the future we’ll work them out together. Anyway, when I proposed to you I purposely suggested we wait a few years before tying the knot so we could do things before we settle down, you know like travelling and stuff. I......I want........no, nevermind.”

“What? What is it, Michael?”

“I......uh......It’s just that I want us to make good memories together, ones that we can one day tell those babies you told me we’d be having.” He answered her as he looked down at the floor.

“Michael.........” Maria gasped at his words.

Hearing the sound she made, Michael looked back up at her and moving his hands to her face he gently wiped away the last of Maria’s tears and as she closed her eyes, he came closer and kissed each of her eyelids.

“I must look such a mess.”

“No, Maria, you don’t. You look beautiful as always. Tell you what, how about I run you a nice hot bath and you can relax while I make us something to eat? I’ll bet you haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

“I’m not hungry but the bath sounds good. Will you sit with me while I soak?” Maria asked, looking down at her bed and tracing the pattern on her comforter with her index finger.

“Sure, if you want me to. While you’re in the bath will you tell me what happened today with Liz?”

Startled by his question Maria suddenly looked up and into his eyes. “Uh.........what.......what do you mean?”

“Maria, I know something happened today with Liz. You were so happy this morning and even after we had our run in with her during our break you were okay. We were even making plans to tell the others about the engagement, but then all of a sudden you’re telling me you’ve made a mistake and giving me the ring back.”

Maria couldn’t hold it in anymore and starting sobbing, the noise making Michael’s heart hurt even more than it was already. He gathered her up in his arms and sat her on his lap and rubbed her back. “Shhh, it’s okay. I’m sorry........I didn’t mean to push you with this.”

Freeing her arm which was pinned between their bodies, Maria brought it up and around Michael’s neck and held on tightly to him. “No. I’m.....I’m so sorry..........I didn’t mean...........to hurt you......Michael........” She said between sobs.

“Shhh, it’s okay Maria. Take some deep breaths and try to relax. Just tell me one thing though, was it Liz?” He held his breath waiting for her answer and a few seconds later he felt her nod against him. ‘Right, that’s it! I’ve had enough of her interfering in mine and Maria’s relationship. She’s not getting away with hurting Maria like this. No way.’ He could feel his blood boiling in his veins as he mentally made the promise to get even with Liz and took some deep breaths himself to try and calm himself down. For now he wanted to concentrate on making Maria feel better and reassure her of his love for her.


*********


Chapter Thirteen

Waiting for the kettle to boil Michael paced up and down the Deluca’s kitchen. ‘What the hell could Liz have said to Maria? What would make her even want to hurt her best friend anyway?’ Michael couldn’t stop the questions going round in his head. After he had managed to calm Maria down he had run her a bath using her favourite lavender bubble bath and had let her get comfortable before coming downstairs to make her some herbal tea which would hopefully serve to soothe her some more. Michael hoped that once Maria was completely relaxed she would be able to start explaining to him what had happened earlier that day. Hearing the button on the kettle click off announcing the water had boiled, Michael proceeded to make Maria’s tea and a cup of coffee for himself.


*********


Maria lay back in the bath enjoying the lavender scented water and waited for Michael to come back upstairs. All of a sudden she raised her left hand out of the water and stared at her ringless finger. Michael’s voice startled her out of her reverie as he walked into the bathroom holding two mugs.

“Your ring is in my pocket if you still want it, Maria.” He said handing her the mug of tea. “Do you still want it, Maria?” The nerves he felt were evident in his voice as he waited for her answer.

“I.......I do, Michael. I do still want my ring and I still want you and us. I........I’m so sorry........”

Michael placed his mug of coffee on the counter beside the sink and took Maria’s own mug back out of her hands and placed it beside his. Putting his hand in his pocket Michael pulled out the small jewellery box he had been keeping there since she had given him back the ring, and knelt down so he was at eye level with her. He then took her hand in his and with his other hand slowly eased the ring onto her finger. Keeping a hold of her hand he moved further forward and kissed her slow and deep, making up for the time they had already spent apart. Regretfully he pulled away from her and said, “We still have to talk about what happened today, Maria. I need to know what she did.”

Nodding at him Maria placed one hand on his chest and grabbing a handful of his T-shirt, pulled him back to her and continued the kiss. After a while Michael’s lips left hers and wandered down to her jaw and she tilted her head to the side giving him better access to her neck. “Why don’t you get into the bath with me and then I can tell you what happened?” She asked.

“Why don’t you just tell me now?” He challenged pulling away from her neck and looking at her face.

“Because I can tell you’re on edge which is understandable after everything that’s gone on today but I need you to be calm when I tell you, okay?”

“Fine.” Michael replied as he stood up and slowly removed his clothes, loving the way Maria’s eyes roamed all over his body. Maria knew he was watching her watch him and for the first time that day she felt more like her old self. The one that couldn’t help but appreciate her boyfriend’s beautiful, hard body and the fact that he once again belonged solely to her. Once he was naked he went to take the back but Maria indicated that she wanted him to take the front so he could lay back against her in the water.

Once he was settled and they were both comfortable Maria started to tell him what had happened between her and Liz.

“So, let me get this straight. Liz was the one who started spouting all this stuff about me leaving you and basically repeating everything your dad did to your mom. Why would she say that? I mean, she knows how painful it’s been for you having to deal with all that stuff over the years. How can she say I’d do the same thing to you? She’s supposed to be your best friend and yet she can say that so easily to your face.”

Maria’s arms came around Michael’s chest from behind and she held him tightly. “Calm down, okay. And as far as I’m concerned she’s not my best friend anymore. A best friend doesn’t prey on your worst fears and insecurities and do her best to break up said friend’s relationship with her boyfriend. I just wish I knew why she would say all those things to me. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

“You should have seen her, Maria, when she and Max came over to the apartment before I came here. She even tried to stop me coming to see you saying that after our fight I should leave you to cool down as I know how hot-headed you can be. Can you believe that?”

“After the way she acted today Michael, I can believe anything about Liz Parker. Do you think it might have something to do with her powers coming online and that’s what is making her act all weird?”

“I don’t know. I guess it’s possible. I don’t even know if it’s worth talking to Max about it. You should have seen him with Liz earlier, he was like her little lap dog or something. I’m surprised he didn’t lie on his back on the floor and get her to rub his stomach after he’d obeyed her.”

Maria couldn’t help smiling at the image Michael conjured up. “Do you want to maybe call Isabel over and see if she can help?” Maria asked him.

“Let’s do that tomorrow okay ‘cos it’s getting late. Anyway, I really just want to spend the night here if that’s okay with you?”

“Mmmm, that’s more than okay, baby.” She said rubbing her hands over his chest and stomach and moving them down lower in the water. “Can we forget about what’s happened just for tonight and make up for lost time? I really missed you, Michael.”

Turning himself over in the bath, Michael held himself above Maria and looked into her dazzling green eyes which he was pleased to notice were shining once again with happiness and not tears. “I missed you too.” He said lowering himself to plant a soft kiss on her lips. “Okay, but I’m letting you know now, she’s not getting away with what she’s done.”

“Agreed. I’m just sorry I let her words sink in and I’m even more sorry that I caused you pain. I don’t know.........”

“Shhh, let’s just try not to think of it anymore tonight. If you’re really serious about making it up to me,then you can start by doing that thing you did before with the mint.” He said smirking.

“Oh, you liked that huh?”

“Nevermind liked it, I loved it, Maria. What do you want me to do to you in return?”

“Mmmmmm, let me see. I want you to do the thing you did with your tongue that time?”

“What thing with my tongue?” He asked looking at her confused.

“Okay, remember a couple of weeks ago. We were going to hang out here but then Mom came back early from that convention, so then we were going to hang out at your place but Max and Liz were already there making themselves comfortable. Anyway, I snuck you in here after Mom had gone to bed and you did this thing with your tongue that had me screaming into my pillow for what seemed like hours. I couldn’t believe Mom didn’t hear me and come in to see what was going on.”

“Oh yeah! That thing. Sure, I can re-enact that for you and the best thing is that your Mom’s not here so you can scream away, baby.” He replied, grinning as he remembered exactly what he had done to Maria that night.

“Yeah right, Michael. I can just imagine one of the neighbours coming over to check out who’s making all the noise, finding out it’s me and then telling my Mom when she gets back.”

“Fine. The last thing I need is to get into Amy’s bad books after all the progress we’ve made. So, listen. How about we get out of the bath, go downstairs and order a pizza and veg out in front of the TV for a little while? I know you said you’re weren’t hungry but you haven’t eaten for hours and I know I’m starving. I need some serious food if we’re going to be busy later.”

“That sounds good, Michael, but I don’t know if I can wait for you until later. I’ve missed you so much I want to feel you inside me now.” Maria said caressing the side of Michael’s face with her palm, feeling his stubble prickling her fingertips.

Michael gently maneuvered himself and Maria in the water so that he was now lying on the bottom and Maria was stradding him. He let his hands wander all over her slick, wet body paying considerable attention to her breasts and he moved forward to take one of her nipples between his lips, softly suckling and then biting it playfully.

Maria ran her hands through Michael’s hair and was effectively holding him in place, savouring the sensation of Michael’s lips as they moved to her other breast and continued suckling her.

“That feels so good.........I’m so glad you didn’t listen to me........I’ll never complain about that again...........”

“Uh huh. I’ll keep you to that.” Michael replied, breaking off from his ministrations and then moving up to capture her lips again before returning to her breasts. He couldn’t seem to get enough of the taste of Maria’s skin and for a while earlier that day he wasn’t sure if he would ever get her back. When he had gone back to his apartment after his shift he had thrown up, the sense of fear he had felt that maybe he wouldn’t be able to convince Maria to come back to him having built up over the course of the afternoon.

“Michael, baby, what’s the matter?” Maria asked as he had stopped what he had been doing and was now wrapping his arms tightly around her waist, his face buried in her chest. She could feel the tremors wracking Michael’s body and so she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and was also rubbing her hands up and down his back, trying to comfort him. “Shhh, it’s okay. I’m so sorry I hurt you but I’m here now and I’m never leaving you again. I promise you with all my heart, Michael.” Maria reassured him.

Michael released the tight hold he had on Maria so he could look into her eyes. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for Maria. The person who did this to us is going to pay. I promise you that. I don’t care what it takes but she’ll regret the day she crossed us.” He told her adamantly.

“Let’s not think about her now. We can start dealing with that stuff tomorrow, okay. We’ll do what you suggested earlier and get out of the bath and then order some food. I think we’ll both start to feel a little better once we’ve eaten something.” Maria said as she wiped away a few stray tears from Michael’s eyes.

Michael helped Maria steady herself on her feet and she turned on the shower attachment and rinsed herself off before doing the same to Michael once he had stood up. Wrapped in soft, fluffy towels Michael quickly picked up his clothes from the floor and they both then went into Maria’s bedroom and got dried off. Maria threw on her pyjamas and a thick pair of socks while Michael put on the clothes he had earlier taken off. Once they were both ready they walked hand in hand downstairs and into the kitchen.

Michael gently picked Maria up by her waist and sat her down on the kitchen counter before grabbing the phone and dialling the local pizza parlour to order their dinner. “They said it’ll be about twenty minutes.” He told her after he hung up the phone.

“What shall we do to pass the time, Michael?” Maria asked knowing full well what they would be doing.

In answer Michael picked Maria up again and she automatically wrapped her legs around his waist as he carried her into the living room. “I’ve got no idea. What do you suggest we do?” He smirked before dropping her onto the couch and pouncing on her, once again loving the sound of her laughter which now filled the room.


*********


Chapter Fourteen

Michael lay in bed with Maria sprawled out on his chest. His fingers lightly stroked her hair as he watched her sleeping peacefully, her beautiful features at last completely relaxed. Even though he felt as exhausted as she did he didn’t want to take his eyes off her. He had come so close today to losing his lover and best friend and he didn’t know what he would have done if he had not been able to convince her of the depth of his love for her, and how much he needed her in his life.

As he held Maria close, Michael thought back to a few hours earlier when the two of them had been engaged in an extremely hot and heavy makeout session on the couch which ended up with them rolling around on the floor as they waited for their dinner to arrive. He could vividly remember all the dirty things Maria had whispered in his ear, all the things she told him she would do to his body to make up for her earlier treatment of him, and he smirked as he remembered the scowl he had given the pizza delivery guy when he had interrupted them by ringing the doorbell.

After they had eaten their pizza and cleared up, they had gone upstairs to Maria’s bedroom, lit some candles and then made love for hours. Michael couldn’t stop thinking about the last time which had been particularly slow and tender. He had to admit that it had been a while since it had been like that for them. What with Max staying at his apartment they usually had to make it fast which was also great but sometimes it felt like there was something missing. Tonight for the first time in a long while it felt like that something was back.

When they were making love, Michael had deliberately drawn things out so that each time Maria was on the verge of climaxing he would slow the pace until she had calmed down before he would begin thrusting wildly inside her again and again until she was once more on the edge. He smiled as he remembered doing it to her about three or four times before Maria raised herself up and bit him hard on his shoulder, the erotic blend of pain and pleasure almost making him cum. After that Michael speeded up his thrusts so that when they finally came, they came together with Maria screaming his name over and over as Michael’s shout of Maria’s name was released into her mouth as he ravaged her lips in a hard, bruising kiss.

Now lying here in bed comfortably embracing his future in his arms, Michael tightened his hold on Maria and gently placed a kiss on the top of her head before he finally let himself fall asleep.


*********


The next morning Maria woke up to the sound of Michael talking to someone on the phone. He was sitting on the side of the bed with his back to her and she smiled as she took in the scratches that ran down his back.

“Uh.....Yeah.......Sure........We’ll definitely be there tomorrow for our shift.......Okay......Bye.” Michael said and then hung up the phone. He stood up and turned towards the bed, a smile gracing his face when he saw that Maria was awake. “Morning beautiful. Did you sleep okay?”

“Mmmmm, I slept great. Who were you talking to on the phone, Michael?”

“I called Mr Parker and told him we both wouldn’t be in for our shifts this afternoon. I just said we had some personal business to attend to but that we’d be there tomorrow. I can’t say he was too happy but there’s no way I want you facing Liz today. Anyway, while she’s busy working we can try and find out what’s going on with her because we need to deal with this thing today.” Michael informed her.

“Yeah, I know. I bet when Mr Parker tells Liz we’re not coming in she’ll probably make up some crap about why we’re not there.”

“Don’t worry about that because when I’ve finished with her she’ll be more careful about what lies she tells, that is if she ever has the guts to lie again.”

“Michael.........”

“No, Maria. There’s no way she’s getting away with what she did to you.......to us. Anyway, I’ve called Isabel and Kyle and asked them to meet us here for lunch today but not to say anything to Max or Liz. They should be coming over about midday so I thought we could go grocery shopping and get some food in for lunch.”

“Sure. Uh......Michael, what if...........What if Isabel and Kyle don’t believe us? If Liz thinks we’re onto the fact that she tried breaking us up she could have got to them first and told them more lies.”

“I thought of that too so I asked both Iz and Kyle if they’d seen or spoken to Liz last night and they both said they hadn’t. I said we’d tell them everything when we saw them. They both said they’d keep quiet should they see her. I also told them we had some good news to tell them about us.”

“Last chance to back out of the engagement, Michael. Once we tell people that’s it buddy, you’re stuck with me.” Maria chuckled.

“That’s not funny, Maria. There’s no way I’m backing out of anything so you’re stuck with me too.”

“Good.”

“Ditto.”

Michael flopped down onto the bed making Maria bounce slightly and he leaned over, planting a soft kiss on her lips. “We’d better get washed and dressed if we want to hit the store and have time to make something to eat for Iz and Kyle.”

“What time is it anyway?” Maria asked him.

“It’s just after nine but I know how long you take in the bathroom so I thought I’d better get you up now.”

“Ha ha, very funny. I don’t see you complaining about that when we’re taking our time soaking in the bath or when we’re having sex in the shower.”

“Hey, I never said it was a bad thing did I?”

“No, honey, you didn’t. Listen, why don’t you go downstairs and make some breakfast and coffee while I have a quick shower.”

“Don’t you want me to join you?” Michael asked pouting.

“You know I do but if we’ve got guests coming over we need to actually be up and dressed to greet them, and preferably with something to feed them too. If you shower with me we both know we’ll still be in the bathroom when they arrive.”

“Fine. We’ll just have to shower together later when I’ve got you all alone. It does seem a while since we’ve done it in the shower, honey.” He smirked.

Maria gave a mischievious laugh. “You know something, you’re right plus it will be something to look forward to tonight.”

They leaned in at the same moment and shared a passionate kiss, before Michael pulled away and broke the kiss. “I love you, sweetie.” He told her rubbing her cheekbone with his thumb.

“I love you too. Now go and make the woman you love some of your delicious pancakes ‘cos I’m pretty damn hungry after last night.”

“Yes Ma’am.” He said giving her a cheeky wink and getting up from the bed. “Don’t take too long in the bathroom otherwise I’ll come up and get you.”

“Ooooh, promises, promises.”

“Brat.”

Michael went downstairs and started to prepare breakfast for himself and Maria. He just hoped that things went well when Isabel and Kyle arrived. Would they believe what he and Maria had to tell them about Perfect Parker?


*********


Chapter Fifteen

When the doorbell rang later on, Michael and Maria were curled up on the couch sharing innocent kisses, touches and whispers while an old black and white movie played on the TV in the background. Disentangling herself from Michael, Maria got up from the couch and walked over to open the front door.

“Hi Isabel, hey Kyle. Come on in.” She greeted their guests, moving aside so they could enter into the house.

“Hey guys, so what’s up? What’s goin’ on? What’s with all the cloak and dagger stuff, huh?” Kyle bombarded them with questions as he walked inside and made himself comfortable in one of the armchairs.

“Shut up, Kyle. What did I tell you in the car?” Isabel admonished.

Raising his hands in mock surrender Kyle said, “Okay, okay. I apologise and I’ll be shutting up now.”

Michael chuckled at the interaction between Kyle and Isabel. “No, it’s okay. There’s nothing for you to apologise for, Kyle, which I guess makes a change for you, huh? I realise us asking you to keep quiet about your visit does seem strange but we have got a good reason for it.” Michael told them as he stood up and then gestured for Isabel to take a seat which she did next to Maria on the couch.

Michael took a deep breath before continuing. “First of all Maria and I have some good news which we want to share with you both.” He held out his hand to Maria and she quickly got up from her seat and went over to stand next to him, taking his outstretched hand in hers.

“We know it may seem sudden seeing as we’ve only just gotten back together but it’s what we both want and nothing will change our minds.”

“Spit it out Michael. Kyle and I don’t have all day.” Isabel said smiling, showing she was only joking by her statement.

“Michael and I are engaged.” Maria blurted out before Michael could say anything.

There was a moment of silence before anyone spoke.

“Really? Wow! That’s so great and I’m really happy for you.” Isabel exclaimed standing up and enveloping Maria in a big hug before reaching over and including Michael in the hug.

“Do you mean that, Isabel? You have no idea how nervous I was about telling you guys.” Maria admitted.

“I really mean it. Come on, you and Michael are made for each other. Maybe we haven’t always been as supportive of your relationship as we could have been but..........I’m really happy for you both.”

Kyle stood up and reached out and shook Michael’s hand before he leaned in and gave Maria a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Yeah, congratulations guys. I agree with what Iz just said. So when’s the wedding?” He asked.

“Not for a couple of years at least. We just want to have a nice long engagement and take things slowly.” Michael answered.

“I wasn’t expecting you to say that. I figured you would be planning on hightailing it to Vegas or something in the next couple of weeks and doing it in a chapel.” Kyle said laughing.

“Funny Valenti. Look, we’re only eighteen and we’re not even out of school yet so why rush and get married now. No offence Isabel.” He quickly added at seeing the look of distress that crossed her face.

“It’s okay, none taken Michael. I don’t regret marrying Jesse when I did but I guess a long engagement might have been a better idea in the circumstances you know. I hate the fact that I lied to him and never told him the truth about me before we got married.”

Maria wrapped an arm around Isabel’s shoulder. “I know but you guys love each other and it’ll work out. You’ll see. He just needs time to get his head round the whole thing.”

“I’m sorry for being so hard on you about not telling him the truth when you wanted to, Isabel.” Michael told her.

“Thank you for saying that.” Isabel replied quietly. “Anyway, let’s get back to you two. Does your mom know yet?”

Maria nodded as she took a seat on the couch and pulled on Isabel’s hand signalling for her to do the same. “Apparently so. Michael asked her for my hand in marriage before he proposed.” She said smiling.

“Oh my God! You’re kidding.” Looking over at Michael she asked, “When did you get to be such a romantic, huh? I can’t believe you did that.”

Michael blushed and shrugged his shoulders. “I just wanted to do this properly, that’s all. I wanted Amy to know that I was serious about marrying Maria and it wasn’t about us rushing head first into anything. I was more surprised at the fact that she was pretty cool about it.”

“I’m not surprised.” Kyle admitted. “For an adult she’s pretty cool and I know at the time I thought it was.....I don’t know, kinda gross but I sometimes wish Amy and my Dad were still dating. They actually made a good couple.”

Maria smiled at him. “Hey, you feeling alright over there Kyle.”

“Shut up, Deluca. Seriously though, don’t you think so too?”

“Um.....I guess so. I know I preferred your dad to some of the guys my Mom has dated over the years although when they first started seeing each other it freaked me out. You know, before he knew the truth about you guys and I thought he was using my Mom to get information.” Maria replied.

“So has Romeo over here got you an engagement ring yet?” Isabel asked and then gasped as Maria held her left hand out for her to see. “Oh my God! That is so beautiful.” She exclaimed. Looking over at Michael she then asked, “Okay, who are you and where is the real Michael?”

“Are you and Kyle finished with all the teasing yet ‘cos I don’t think my sides can take any more?” Michael asked with a deadpan expression on his face.

“Yeah, okay, we’re done. Right Isabel?”

“Ruin my fun why don’t you. Fine, I’ll stop the teasing. So are we celebrating tonight or are you planning on having an engagement party? I could throw one for you at my place if you want?” Isabel offered.

“That’s really sweet, Isabel, but there are a couple of people who aren’t going to be as enthusiastic about our engagement.”

Kyle looked over at Maria confused. “Who are you talking about, Maria?”

Michael answered for her. “Well, Liz for one and probably Max too. That’s why we asked you guys to come over here and not say anything to the others.”

Isabel and Kyle looked at each other. Isabel was the one to speak first.

“What’s going on? Why wouldn’t Max and Liz be happy for you guys?”

“I.....I don’t know. Liz said something......to me. She.....um......she said all these nasty things and I............I told Michael I’d changed my mind. That it would be a mi......mistake to get married.” Maria answered as she began to cry. Isabel placed an arm around Maria’s shoulder in an effort to try and comfort her.

Kyle sat forward on his seat. “What could Liz have said to make you change your mind?”

“She basically told Maria that we would end up like her parents, you know fighting all the time and that I’d probably do the same thing her father did to her mom and leave her. She also said something about me only sticking around because I’d got her pregnant. Liz preyed on Maria’s worst fears and if her plan was to break us up, then it worked. But hey, you know me and how I never listen so I gave Maria some time on her own and then I came over and........well, we’re back together and the engagement is back on.” Michael informed them. He got up from his armchair and went over to Maria and sitting down on the couch he pulled her into his lap, gently rubbing her back to try and calm her.

Isabel gasped at what Michael had just told them. “I.......I can’t believe Liz would do that.”

At hearing Isabel’s words Maria began to cry harder. “I knew they wouldn’t believe me.”

Moving closer to her, Isabel placed her hand on Maria’s shoulder. “Oh sweetie, no. I do believe you. I just can’t believe she would say such a thing to her best friend. Now I see why you didn’t want me and Kyle to mention anything about our visit to her or Max.”

Maria turned slightly to face Isabel and gave her a watery smile. “Thank you for believing me. If she can say that to me before she even knows about my engagement........”

“Woah! You mean Liz said this before she knew you and Michael were engaged?” Kyle interrupted, the surprise he felt evident in his voice.

Michael nodded. “Yep. Who knows what words of wisdom Parker will be offering once she hears about the engagement. Have you two noticed anything weird about her lately? Has she been acting strangely around you two?”

“No, Liz has been fine with me. Do you think it could have something to do with the powers she’s starting to develop?” Kyle asked.

“We don’t know. That’s part of the reason why we invited you two over today. We need to figure out what if anything is going on with her because I sure as hell don’t want Maria listening to any more crap like what she’s already heard.” He stated as Maria rested her head on his chest.

“I’ve got a suggestion to make. Let’s have lunch and while we’re eating we can brainstorm. You two can tell us exactly what’s been happening concerning Liz, you know any odd behaviour and the like.” At seeing Michael rolling his eyes, Isabel added smiling, “I mean, stranger than usual behaviour.”

Maria slowly got up from Michael’s lap and holding his hand they walked into the kitchen closely followed by Isabel and Kyle.

Taking seats at the kitchen table the four teens began helping themselves to the various sandwiches and salads that had been prepared.

“Right, let’s get started.” Isabel stated as the other three rolled their eyes.

It looked as if Isabel was in charge.


*********


Chapter Sixteen

Maria, Michael, Isabel and Kyle spent as much time during their lunch discussing what had happened with Liz. While both Isabel and Kyle were stunned at what they heard from Michael and Maria, they knew that what they were being told was the truth. One thing that couldn’t be denied about the couple was that they didn’t lie and especially not to each other. The pain they were experiencing as a result of what Liz had told Maria was plain to see.

Isabel took a sip from her glass of water before she spoke. “The main thing that’s bothering me about what has happened is why Liz would suddenly say this. You say that she doesn’t know about the engagement yet so why would she lash out now? Why this particular moment?”

Scratching his eyebrow, Michael answered her. “Your guess is as good as ours. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened as far as we are aware. Neither of us has said or done anything to Liz to make her want to lash out.”

“I know we haven’t really spent much time together lately so maybe that’s got something to do with it. Maybe she’s upset or angry that any free time I have has been spent with Michael.”

Kyle shook his head. “Nah, I don’t think that’s it. Liz has never lashed out like this before when the two of haven’t spent too much time together. I know Liz developing powers kinda freaked her out at first so maybe that’s got something to do with it.”

“Hmmm, maybe. Look, we don’t seem to be getting anywhere like this so I say we confront her and find out what’s going on.” Michael stated.

Taking one of Michael’s hands in hers, Maria rubbed her thumb back and forth over his knuckles. “Michael, you need to calm down. I don’t know if confronting her is such a good idea. How about if we try and get Max alone and see whether or not he knows anything?”

“I think that’s a good idea, Maria.” Isabel chipped in. “Maybe he’s noticed her acting out of sorts and has some idea as to why. It can’t hurt.”

Michael suddenly stood up, moving his chair back noisily. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go.”

“Michael, Maria’s right about you needing to calm down. I think it’s best if maybe Kyle and I talk to Max alone, and try to gauge his reaction to what we tell him.”

“I think Isabel’s plan is a good one. If you go in all guns blazing accusing Liz of all sorts you’ll just get his back up and he probably won’t tell us anything. Instead, he’ll probably go running to tell Liz what’s going on and she’ll turn things around so he ends up feeling sorry for her.” Kyle said feeling slightly wary of Michael’s reaction. “Look, Liz is still one of my best friends and if something is going on with her, then we need to find out what it is and put it right. But if everything she’s saying is her just being a total bitch, then I’ll back you guys all the way in dealing with her.”

“Thanks, man.” He replied as he sat back down. “You’re right, if this is something alien we need to know and fix it. Stop it from getting any worse. But if this is her showing what she really thinks of Maria’s relationship with me, then she’s gonna be sorry.”

“So, you’ll let Kyle and Isabel speak to Max to deal with things a little more calmly?” Maria asked him moving closer to him.

Michael looked at the others in turn who were anxiously awaiting his answer and he couldn’t help smirking. “Yeah, I’ll let them interrogate Max. But I want to know everything he tells you as soon as you’re done with him. Okay?”

“Michael!” Maria scolded.

“What? I don’t want this thing dragging on. The sooner we find out what was behind Liz’s outburst the better.”

“I promise, Michael, as soon as we’re done with Max we’ll come and find you and Maria and let you know what happened.” Isabel told him.

“Thanks.” Michael said nodding at the pair. “So when do you plan on speaking to the King?”

“Tonight might be a good time. He’s still crashing in my guest room so I’ll make sure he’s there for dinner and I’ll tell him I’ve invited Kyle along.”

“Are you going to talk to him in front of Jesse?” Maria asked her.

“I think Jesse’s working late with my Dad tonight so we’ll make it an early dinner just in case he comes back early.”

“And what if Max doesn’t want to come to dinner or worst still, he does and wants to bring Liz with him?”

“Relax, Michael. I’ll tell him I need to talk to him about family stuff and I’d rather we did it alone.”

“Well, that’s not going to work if he knows I’ve been invited to dinner too.” Kyle stated.

“Damn!” Isabel exclaimed. After thinking about it for a moment, she continued. “Wait a sec. I only need to tell him it’s family stuff to get him to come over, once he’s there Kyle and I can tell him it was a ruse to get him alone to talk about Liz. What do you think?”

“Yeah, I think that’ll work. I could arrive about ten minutes later after he’s had a chance to get nice and comfortable.” Kyle agreed.

“Come on then, Kyle. We’d better get going because I’m going to have to do some grocery shopping if I’m cooking dinner tonight and you’ve got to be back at work in about ten minutes.” Isabel said getting up from her chair. “Thanks for lunch guys. Oh and I meant what I said, Maria, you know about throwing you and Michael an engagement party if you want.”

“Thanks Isabel, that means a lot. Let’s just deal with Liz first and get to the bottom of her behaviour. Once that is sorted out, then I can think about having a party.”

“Sure, that makes sense. Anyway, we’ve got to go now because as well as shopping I’ve also got to call Max and make sure he’s free for dinner. If he’s not free, then Kyle and I will just have to come up with something else.”

“Yeah, don’t worry though, we’ll keep you posted.” Kyle told them as they walked towards the front door. Turning to face her, he leaned in to kiss Maria’s cheek and then whispered in her ear. “Don’t worry, okay. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“I know and thanks. Uh.....I just want to say thanks again........you know, for believing what Michael and I told you. I know it’s hard to believe that Liz would say something like that.......”

“Hey, there’s no need to keep thanking us.” Isabel interrupted. “We may not have always been close in the past but things are different now and I consider you one of my best friends and I believe my friends when they tell me something is wrong. Okay?” Isabel said smiling.

Maria’s eyes shone with tears but she managed to smile. “Okay.” She agreed.

Isabel quickly leaned in and hugged Maria and then Michael before grabbing Kyle’s arm and dragging him down the driveway to where she had parked. “We’ll call you later. Oh and congratulations again.”

“Bye guys.” Kyle called out as Isabel drove away.

Michael wrapped an arm around Maria’s shoulder and led her back into the house. Once he had shut the front door he walked her over to the couch and they dropped down onto it. “Are you okay, Maria?” He asked.

“Uh huh. Who would have thought that Isabel considers me one of her best friends?”

“Why wouldn’t she? Isabel’s right, a lot of things have changed since you and Liz found out the truth about us, plus the fact she’s never really had any close girlfriends before. I don’t think those vapid airheads she used to hang out with could be called friends.”

“I guess.” Maria said leaning her head on Michael’s chest. “I just hope Isabel and Kyle are able to get Max alone and see if he knows what’s going on with Liz. I always thought that when I got engaged Liz would be the first person I would tell and now.........”

Michael’s hold on Maria tightened. “I know. But if anyone can get to the bottom of this it’s Isabel. If Max does know what’s going on, Iz will find out and then she’ll let us know.” He said before dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “I can’t believe I’m going to suggest this, but let’s get the lunch things cleared up. I’ll wash and you dry.”

Maria lifted her head and looked at him. “Are you feeling okay, Michael? Did I hear you right? Did you just suggest clearing up?”

“Ha ha, very funny. I just thought it’ll give us something to do and take our minds off what’s going on for a little while.”

Moving towards him, Maria softly kissed his lips. “I know and I’m sorry for teasing. You know, there are other things we could do to take our minds off of things.”

“Yeah, I know but I thought we could do that later ‘cos that way washing the dishes won’t be preying on our minds. Woah! Did I just say that? It must have something to do with being in your Mom’s house.”

Maria couldn’t help laughing at the look on Michael’s face. She stood up and then grabbed Michael’s hands and pulled him up off the couch. “Come on Spaceboy, the sooner we get those dishes done the quicker you can start distracting me in more imaginative ways.”


*********


Isabel pulled up outside of the auto shop that Kyle worked at. “Okay, I’m going to suggest six o’clock for dinner with Max so you should turn up at around say quarter past, Kyle.”

“Sure, let me just synchronise my watch now.” He teased.

“Maybe I should do this on my own.”

“No. No, you shouldn’t. Don’t worry, okay? We’ll get to the bottom of this one way or another. Listen, why don’t you call Max now? The longer you leave it the more likely it is that he’s made plans with Liz.” Kyle told her.

“Yeah, I know and Kyle, I’m glad you’re going to be there with me.” Isabel gave him a smile and then reached into the backseat and grabbed her purse. Taking out her cell phone she dialled Max’s number and after a few rings he picked up.

“Hey Max, it’s me. I was just wondering if you were doing anything for dinner tonight?.........It's just that I need to talk to you about something Dad said and so I was thinking you could come over for dinner and we could discuss it. Jesse’s working late so it’ll just be you and me.........I.........uh...I’d rather not talk about it on the phone if you don’t mind......Okay, yeah that’s fine........Come over at six..............Okay, I’ll see you later then. Bye Max.”

Kyle smiled at Isabel as she ended the call and placed her phone back in her purse. “Well, that was easier than I thought it might be. So, all systems go, huh?”

“Uh huh. Hopefully by the end of this evening we’ll have a much better picture of what’s been going on with Miss Parker.”

“So, who’s going to be the good cop and who’s going to be the bad one?” He teased again as he got out of the car.

“Shut up, Kyle. Just be there on time.” Isabel called out through the open window before driving away. “Men!”


*********


Chapter Seventeen

“Who was on the phone, Max?” Liz asked as he put his cell phone back into his jacket pocket. The pair were sitting side by side on the couch in Michael’s apartment with their biology text books laid out on the coffee table in front of them.

“It was just Isabel inviting me over for dinner tonight. Apparently she wants to talk about something my Dad said to her today. Knowing him he has probably been bombarding her with questions about me again.”

Liz pouted at his reply. “But Max, you said we were going to go and see a movie tonight. How about I come to dinner with you and Isabel? I’m sure she wouldn’t object and it would work out great because we could see a movie after we had eaten which would also save us some cash,” she told him.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I think it’s best if I see Iz on my own and find out exactly what Dad’s been saying this time. I’m really sorry about the movie but I could pick you up after I’ve seen her and we could probably make the late show.” Max said, moving forward to place an arm around her shoulders.

“No, Max, that’s not good enough,” she whined as she stood up and folded her arms across her chest. “You and I had plans to see a movie and now just because your sister has demanded you attend dinner at her place you’re just going to blow me off. How dare you......”

“Woah Liz, calm down. I’m not blowing you off but what’s been lately happening with my Dad is important. I need to hear what he’s been saying and, for your information, Isabel didn’t demand that I come over for dinner.” He took a deep breath trying to calm down and then stood up to face her. “Look, Isabel asked me to come over at six which is pretty early so if I rush through dinner I guess we could still make the earlier showing at eight.”

Liz’s eyes blazed with anger. “Forget it. I’d rather just work my shift and then do some homework than play second fiddle to Isabel.”

“Please, Liz, don’t be like this. I don’t know what’s happening lately but you’re not acting like your old self and I for one don’t like the new you.” Max told her.

“Oh, I’m sorry your Highness that I no longer please you. Maybe you should have left with Tess and your son when you had the chance so you could be worshipped on your planet......”

“Stop it!” Max shouted. He ran his hands through his hair and again tried to calm himself down. “I’m going to dinner with Isabel and if you decide you want to still see a movie later, then give me a call on my cell phone. My stuff is still over at her place so I’ll probably be crashing there tonight too.” He started to walk towards the door but then turned back to face Liz. “I don’t know what’s got into you lately but I really wish you would get over it. I’ve apologised over and over for what happened with Tess but you still.......”

“Get out! Just get out! I’m sick to death of hearing that bitch’s name and of you going on and on about your precious son all the time. You need to face the fact that it’s highly unlikely you’re ever going to meet him.”

Max glared at her for a long moment before he turned and stormed out of Michael’s apartment, slamming the door behind him. ‘What the hell is her problem?’ He asked himself.


*********


After Max had left the apartment Liz picked up her empty water glass from the table and threw it at the door in a fit of rage, watching it smash to smithereens. “How dare he speak to me that way? Who the hell does Max Evans think he is?” She shouted into the empty apartment before collapsing onto the couch and staring at the door while deep in thought.

‘Max and I are supposed to be soulmates and yet he can just cast me aside for a stupid dinner with his sister. Someone he could see any oher night. He should have told Isabel I’d be coming along too whether she liked it or not. If it had been Michael Isabel wanted to see I know for a fact he would have taken Maria with him regardless of whether or not she was invited.’ Liz placed her hands either side of her head to try and relieve the tension she was feeling with all these thoughts running through her mind.

‘It should be me and Max that are happy together without any interference from our parents, not Maria and Michael’, she told herself. ‘Well at least I didn’t spread my legs for Max the way she did for Michael just to get him to stay with her......but then I guess she’s just following in her mom’s footsteps.......God, Maria wouldn’t even be with Michael if it wasn’t for me and Max being together....I wouldn’t put it past her to have tried stealing Max from me that summer I went to Florida just to make Michael jealous when he was ignoring her.......’

Liz slowly got up from the couch and walked into the bathroom where she splashed her face with cold water. Looking into the mirror she smiled at her reflection before telling herself, “I’m the one Max saved and I’m the one who’s supposed to have the happy ever after, not Maria. It’s about time she learned that.....”


*********


Isabel checked on the chicken casserole she had prepared for dinner and was now just finishing setting the table for herself, Max and Kyle. ‘Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t set a place for Kyle just yet. Max thinks there’s only going to be the two of us for dinner.....’ She mused. “Oh well, I’ll just have to keep Max away from the table until Kyle gets here.” She said aloud as she set another place for Kyle. Once everything was ready Isabel went to her bedroom to freshen up before her guests arrived.


*********


At five to six Max stood on his sister’s porch and rang the doorbell. Since his argument with Liz he had felt unsettled all afternoon and if it wasn’t for finding out what his father had been saying to Isabel, he would have called her and cancelled dinner.

“Max, you’re right on time. Come on in.” Isabel greeted her brother. She couldn’t help noticing the way his shoulders slumped and that the smile he gave her didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Is everything okay, Max, because you don’t look too good?” She asked.

“I’m fine, just a bit tired I guess,” he told her as he took a seat on the couch. “So, what’s Dad been saying about me this time?”

“Um….let’s not get into that right this second. Can I get you a drink or something?” She asked trying to stall for time.

“Sure, I’ll have a Coke please Isabel. So, how is college? Are you still enjoying it?”

“Yeah, it’s hard work but I like it. It’s much more relaxed than school so maybe that’s got something to do with it.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Isabel knew from the distant tone of Max’s voice that something was up. She went to the kitchen and got herself and Max a drink and when she walked back into the living room Max was leaning back against the cushions with his eyes closed.

“Max, tell me what’s wrong and don’t say nothing. I can tell something’s up so you might as well spill. You know I’ll eventually find out little brother,” she teased.

Max gave her an awkward smile. “Hey, you promised you’d stop using the ‘little brother’ when talking to me.”

“If you remember correctly, I promised I wouldn’t use it in front of anyone else.”

“Yeah……”

“I’m serious Max, if something is wrong you can tell me. I won’t tell anyone else, you know that.”

Nodding at her he said, “Yeah, I know……..I…..um…..I had a fight this afternoon with Liz just after I finished speaking to you. She was pissed because I wanted to have dinner with you on our own if we were going to be discussing Dad. We had plans to see a movie tonight and she felt that my having dinner with you was cutting into our night.”

Isabel tried to hide her surprise at what Max had just told her. ‘Something is definitely wrong with that girl if she’s even picking fights with Max,’ she thought. “I’m sorry, Max. I actually have a little confession to make to you. It wasn’t Dad I wanted to discuss with you, it was……”

The ringing of the doorbell interrupted what she was about to say. ‘Damn! Kyle has the worst timing.’ Isabel thought as she got up from her seat. “Excuse me, Max,” she said as she walked over to the front door and opened it. She gasped when she saw who was standing there.

“Liz? Uh……hi. I…..er…..I wasn’t expecting to see you here tonight.”

A false smile plastered on her face, Liz answered, “I’m sure you don’t mind Isabel but I really want to spend some time with my boyfriend. I don’t know if he had the guts to tell you but we actually had plans tonight before you demanded he came to see you.”

Isabel could barely contain the anger she suddenly felt towards Liz. “You know what? I do mind. I need to talk to Max in private about family matters and unless you’ve got something to tell me to the contrary Liz, you’re not family. I’ll have Max call you when we’re done here,” she told her before shutting the door in her face.

Isabel turned away from the front door to walk back towards Max only to find him standing behind her.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Isabel? You should have let Liz in.”

“No, Max, not until I’ve talked to you alone. Besides, I didn’t hear you stick up for her.”

Suddenly the doorbell rang again and Isabel cursed under her breath. ‘That had better be Kyle this time.’

“If that’s Liz again I want you to let her in.” Max told his sister.

“Max, what part of ‘no’ don’t you understand.” She once again turned to answer the door and this time it was Kyle standing there. “Quick Kyle, come in,” she said as she grabbed his sleeve and pulled him across the threshold, not bothering to check if Liz was still around.

“What’s going on here, Iz? You practically slam the door in Liz’s face yet you’re pulling Kyle inside? I thought you wanted to talk about family matters……”

“Will you please shut up and let me talk, Max?” Isabel said raising her voice. “I don’t want to talk about Dad or any other family stuff. I just said that to……..to get you to come over here alone. Kyle and I need to talk to you about Liz and the way she’s been acting lately. Surely you’ve noticed the way she’s changed and how spiteful she’s become.”

“I……I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Max replied, his voice wavering and proving to Isabel and Kyle that he knew exactly what they were talking about.

“I think you do Max,” Kyle chipped in. “Maybe she’s been all sweetness and light with you but when you hear what she’s said and done to Maria………..well, maybe then you’ll understand what we’re talking about.”

“Maria? What has Liz done to Maria?”

Isabel walked closer to Max and taking his hand she led him over to the couch. Kyle walked behind them and then sat down and made himself comfortable in an armchair.

“This is going to sound unbelievable but I promise you it’s true. Kyle and I have both seen Maria and heard first hand what happened, and I have to tell you that what Liz has said to her is unforgivable.”

“What did she say to her that was so bad? Are you sure it wasn’t just a falling out between friends or something?”

“No, it wasn’t just a falling out. Liz basically preyed on Maria’s worst fears and insecurities concerning her parents until Maria broke up with Michael.”

Max shook his head and chuckled. “Oh come on, those two are always breaking up. You’re seriously telling me that them breaking up was Liz’s fault?”

Isabel sighed and looked across at Kyle who shrugged. “Max, this isn’t funny and after you telling Liz you wanted to see me alone and her following you here, I would have thought you would have been willing to help us find out what is wrong with her. Surely, you can see that she’s acting………..strange to say the least.”

“What do you expect, Isabel? Seriously, after everything she’s been through since finding out about you, me and Michael, what do you expect? I guess it’s only natural that it’s all catching up with her. Plus Liz is developing powers herself now which has been totally unexpected. So she had a blow up with Maria and said some horrible things, Maria will get over it and no doubt her and Michael will be back together by next week.”

“You’re unbelievable Evans, you know that. How far in the sand is your head buried, huh? Oh, and for your information Michael and Maria are already back together….”

“Well, what’s all the fuss about then?”

“I hadn’t finished talking,” Kyle glared at Max which made him shrink back in his seat. “Maria was devastated after Liz told her that her and Michael’s relationship was doomed to turn out like her parents’ marriage, that Michael would probably stick around for a few years before he got fed up and took off leaving her to bring up any kids they had alone. After hearing that Maria broke off her engagement with Mic…….”

“Excuse me? Engagement? What do you mean?”

“Jeez Max, what do you think he means?” Isabel answered, jumping into the conversation. “Okay, maybe we should have mentioned the fact that Michael proposed to Maria the other night on their date and she accepted.”

Max thought back and remembered the way Liz had acted when they had called at the apartment and interrupted Michael and Maria’s date. Deep down what Isabel and Kyle were telling him about Liz’s recent behaviour wasn’t news to him but he somehow felt responsible for screwing up her life. “Oh…..um…..so I’m guessing Liz found out and then said what she did?” He asked.

“No, as far as we know Liz still doesn’t know about the engagement. She lashed out at Maria at the CrashDown yesterday during their shift and Michael called in and cancelled their shifts for today so the two of them could discuss what’s going on with me and Kyle. I’ve never seen Maria so.....so broken.” Isabel told him.

“Why didn’t anyone call me and tell me what’s been going on?”

“Maybe because you and Liz have been glued together these past few weeks,” Kyle answered. “Look man, we need to figure out what’s going on. Maybe it is an alien thing or…” Kyle looked to Isabel and they shared a look.

“Or what?”

“Or maybe we just have to face the fact that Liz is jealous of Maria and her relationship with Michael. I mean, let’s face it, Michael and Maria may have this fiery relationship where they’re always bitching at each other but they’ve always pretty much stuck together even when they haven’t exactly been together together, you know.”

Max couldn’t help nodding yes to Kyle’s observation. Maybe he was right and Liz’s current behaviour wasn’t anything to do with the alien side of things but was simply a case of the green-eyed monster.


*********


Chapter Eighteen

After leaving Isabel’s, Max decided to go for a walk to think over what her and Kyle had told him. He couldn’t believe they were talking about the same Liz Parker that he was hopelessly in love with, but if he was being totally honest with himself he knew things had changed between them these past few weeks.

Max suddenly looked up and realised that he was standing in front of Maria’s house and for a moment he just stood there debating whether or not he should go and see her. ‘I have to hear it from her if I’m to seriously believe this,’ he told himself. Slowly walking up the path he reached the front door and rang the doorbell and a moment later Michael opened the door and stood in front of him.

“I take it Isabel and Kyle have spoken to you,” Michael said.

“Yeah, I’ve just come from having dinner with them. Can I come in?”

“I don’t know. It depends. Do you believe what they told you?”

Max opened his mouth to say something but then quickly closed it when he realised that his first instinct was to defend Liz, but now standing in front of Michael and seeing the sombre expression on his face he knew he couldn’t. He knew that for Michael to look so angry and.......pained meant that Liz had definitely said those things to Maria and it wasn’t all down to some simple misunderstanding.

“Well? Do you believe it or do you think Maria has made this whole thing up to try and make your perfect girlfriend look like the bad guy?”

“I believe Maria. I’ve known her long enough to know that she doesn’t lie and especially not about something like this. Is.........is she okay?”

“What do you think, Maxwell? Of course she’s not okay. Her best friend has dragged up each and every insecurity Maria feels deep down inside and has thrown them in her face. What I want to know is why? Why would Liz Parker suddenly decide to do this to Maria?”

Max shook his head. “I don’t know Michael, I really don’t. But I’m going to find out. Can I see Maria........just for a minute?”

Debating his best friend’s question for a moment, Michael nodded and stood back opening the door wider so Max could enter. Max smiled when he saw Maria curled up on the couch fast asleep. “It’s okay, don’t wake her up Michael, I can come back later or tomorrow,” he whispered.

“No, it’s okay. She’s been asleep for a couple of hours already and I was going to wake her up soon for dinner. Since this thing with Liz has happened Maria has hardly eaten anything. Her nerves are shot to sh*t and she’s constantly on edge. Any ideas on why Liz would do this all of a sudden?”

Walking over to the armchair nearest to where Maria was laying on the couch, Max shook his head no. “I have absolutely no idea. My first thought was that these powers she was developing might have something to do with it but now I’m not so sure. Iz and Kyle think it could be jealousy.” He watched Maria’s face as she slept and he could see the dark shadows around her eyes and the frown lines etched on her forehead. “I’m so sorry, Michael.”

“It’s not you who should be apologising Max and it shouldn’t be to me anyway. I personally don’t care what the reason is behind Liz saying what she did but I’m telling you she’ll pay for what she’s done. I’ve been the cause of Maria crying in the past and I hated it but I have never seen her cry the way she did after Liz said those hateful things to her. Whatever the reason is I don’t think Maria will ever be able to forgive her and if she is ever able to, I know that deep down she’ll never forget.”

Max was silent. He had no idea what he could say to make things better and deep down he knew it wasn’t up to him to make things better anyway. That was something Liz would have to do. He had no clue as to why Liz would want to hurt Maria in this way and part of him prayed that it was due to something alien because if it wasn’t, then he didn’t know if Maria, Michael and the others could ever forgive her for being so cruel.

Michael moved over to where Maria was curled up on the couch and he crouched down and gently caressed her cheek with his fingers. “Hey sleepy head, it’s time to wake up,” he told her softly, nuzzling his face in the nook between her neck and shoulder. Pulling back slightly he watched as her eyelids began to flutter and she slowly began to wake up.

“Hey baby, what time is it?” Maria asked as she stretched out on the couch.

“It’s almost eight o’clock. I wasn’t sure whether to wake you or not but I thought you might be hungry.”

“I’m starving,” she told him and when she sniffed the air said, “Mmmm, something smells good. What are we having?”

“I found some of your mom’s leftover lasagne in the fridge and it looked okay so I’ve just reheated it. It should be ready in another ten minutes or so. Do you want to go and clean up while we’re waiting?”

“Yeah, I’ll just be a minute,” she answered giving him a quick kiss on the lips. As she got up from the couch Maria noticed Max for the first time and quickly glanced at Michael.

“It’s okay, she’s not here,” Michael told her as he stood up and put an arm around her waist. “It’s just Max. He ended up here after he finished speaking to Isabel and Kyle.”

“So you......uh.....you know what she said to me,” she asked Max shakily.

“Yeah, I know and I want you to know that I believe you. I don’t know why she said it but I’ll help you find that out if I can. She’s changed and I don’t know if it’s because of everything that has happened since she met me and found out the secret or if it’s because she’s suddenly developing powers or.........”

“Or what Max? Have you got any more excuses for her?” Maria asked, the anger she felt bubbling to the surface.

“I’m not making excuses for her. I’m just trying to think of reasons why she might suddenly act like this.”

Michael shook his head in disbelief. “Maybe she’s always been like this but has hidden it under that nice girl exterior, huh Max? Maybe you have to face the fact that your soulmate is a bitch.”

“What if the reason is alien, Michael? What if Liz is changing because of us? Because of me?”

“Max, don’t blame yourself for this. Liz isn’t the only person you’ve healed. You’ve healed Kyle and Jim but they haven’t suddenly changed personalities and become nasty and hurtful and wicked. Maybe if they had we could say that it was all down to alien intervention but.....”

“But what Maria?” Michael asked.

“I was going to say that we might have to accept that this is purely down to jealously. I’ve been racking my brain since this all happened trying to work out why she would say those things to me and why now all of a sudden. Okay maybe it is alien related but maybe it isn’t and if it isn’t, then jealousy is the only other thing I’ve been able to come up with. Think about it, Liz has always believed since Max healed her that they were soulmates, destined to be together when suddenly that theory is ripped apart when Tess shows up and spouts all that destiny crap. You might have pushed me away, Michael, but you never hooked up with Isabel whereas Max here did hook up with Tess.”

“But she pushed me towards Tess when.....”

“I know you didn’t truly want to be with Tess but Liz pushed the two of you together because.....well she had her reasons for doing it. Anyway, you end up getting Tess pregnant and were all ready to fly off to Antar but Spaceboy here decides to stay.........for me,” she paused and gave Michael a slow smile before continuing, “and that must have hurt like hell. In her eyes Michael and I were never supposed to be together, in her eyes we paired up because it was convenient with the two of you dating.”

Michael smiled at Maria realising that for the first time since Liz had had her little talk with her that she seemed to be getting back to her old self. It wasn’t going to be easy and like he had told Max, she wasn’t likely to ever forget the poisonous words of her supposed best friend but the fact that she was determined to get to the bottom of things was definitely a good sign.

“So Maria, you’re saying that Liz is jealous of yours and Michael’s relationship and that’s why she’s been acting like this? Are you also saying that she could even have feelings for Michael?”

Michael suddenly looked at Maria, feeling very alarmed at what Max had just said. “What? Feelings for me? She’d better not have.”

Maria couldn’t help laughing at the look of outrage on Michael’s face. “Calm down Spaceboy, I don’t think she’s got feelings for you. If it is jealousy that’s the cause of all this I’m fairly sure it’s jealousy of our relationship and nothing else.”

“Let’s hope so ‘cos I seriously don’t want Liz Parker coming on to me.”

“Hey,” Max said sharply. “What’s wrong with my girlfriend?”

Michael burst out laughing. “Do you seriously expect me to answer that one? I think we might be here all day if I get started on that topic.”

“I don’t think I buy this jealousy thing. I think my initial instinct was right, Liz’s change in behaviour is alien related.”

“Look, right now we don’t know what the exact cause is and until we do I don’t think we should rule anything out. Agreed?” Maria asked.

“Agreed,” Michael confirmed. “Max?”

“Sure.”

“Okay, then. Michael, I’m just going to freshen up so maybe you could take the lasagne out of the oven. I’ll only be a few minutes,” she said as she moved past him and gave him a pat on his stomach.

“Okay. Max, are you staying or going?” He asked as he made his way into the kitchen and turned off the oven.

“I think I’m going to go. Would it be okay if I hang at your apartment seeing as you’re staying here tonight?” Max asked as he leaned back against the counter.

“Yeah, but if you’re hanging out with Liz you’d better stay out of my bedroom. That’s off limits.”

“Got it. Anyway, Liz is pissed at me so I don’t think I’ll be seeing her tonight.”

Donning a pair of oven mitts Michael removed the dish of lasagne from the oven and placed it on the wooden chopping board and grabbing a couple of plates from the cabinet he began to dish up the piping hot pasta. Turning to Max he asked, “Why is she pissed at you now?”

“Because I took off to see Isabel on my own and broke off our movie date. She then turned up at Isabel’s who basically slammed the door in her face.”

Michael couldn’t help smirking at that piece of news. ‘Nice one, Iz,’ he thought to himself.

“It’s not funny Michael.”

“What? I didn’t say a word.”

“You didn’t have to, your face said it all,” Max replied.

“Look, you have to admit that Parker has been acting pretty strangely these past few days. All I know is that we have to get to the bottom of this before things get any worse, not that I can think of anything worse than what she said to Maria.”

“We will get to the bottom of this,” Max told his best friend. “Maria means a lot to me too and I don’t blame her for being hurt and upset at what Liz said. But surely she’s not going to throw years of friendship away for something that may have been out of Liz’s control.”

“Whatever the reason was behind Liz’s outburst I doubt Maria will ever be able to forget it whether the cause was alien or otherwise.”

“But Michael.....”

“No Max, just drop it. Let’s just first find out the cause. We’ll deal with everything else after that. Okay?”

Max knew from the tone of Michael’s voice and the expression on his face that the matter was closed for now. “Okay. I’ll leave you and Maria to have your dinner and I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”

“Fine.” He watched as Max headed towards the front door and he couldn’t fail to see how hard this was on him. “Maxwell?”

Turning to face him Max replied, “Yeah?”

“Are you okay?”

“No, not really but I’ll deal. Once we know what’s going on with Liz we can try and figure something out and try and make things right.........for all of us.”

“Yeah........”

“Oh by the way congratulations on your engagement. I’m glad things have worked out for you and Maria.”

“Thanks Max,” Michael said not trying to hide the smile that was gracing his features. “We were planning on telling everyone together but............well things happened to prevent that.”

Max nodded. “Pass on my congratulations to Maria and tell her I said bye. I’ll speak to you both soon,” he said as he opened the front door and stepped out.

Just as the front door closed Maria came down the stairs but paused before she reached the bottom and looked over at Michael. “Has he gone already? You didn’t chase him out did you?”

Michael walked over to where Maria was standing and placing his arms around her waist picked her up. Maria’s legs automatically came around his waist and he slowly carried her into the kitchen. “No, I didn’t chase him out. He’s got a lot to think about and so he’s going over to my apartment to do that. By the way, he congratulated us on our engagement and said to say goodbye to you. I think he’ll probably come over again tomorrow to talk some more,” he told her.

“That’s fine. When are we going to actually speak to Liz though? It’s all well and good us having all these brainstorming sessions but I think we actually need to speak to her, maybe even confront her,” Maria said as she released her legs from Michael’s waist and placed her feet on the floor.

“I think we should speak to Liz tomorrow. Get it all out in the open. What about if we call the others and arrange to meet at my apartment tomorrow evening?” He suggested.

“Yeah, that sounds good. We’ll call Max tomorrow morning and see if he can arrange for Liz to hang out with him at your place and we can all be there before she arrives. Maybe we shouldn’t include Isabel and Kyle though. Do you think all of us being there will be too much?”

Michael shook his head. “No, I don’t. I think the more witnesses there are the better. You and Max have been the ones on the receiving end of her weirdness but Max is still sort of denying the whole thing. Apparently though Liz followed Max to Isabel’s tonight and Isabel wouldn’t let her in and practically slammed the door in her face so I think Iz should be there too.”

“Why would Liz follow Max to his sister’s place? He was just going there for dinner as far as she was concerned........unless she knows something’s up and wanted to check it out.”

“We don’t know anything at the moment which is why it’s about time we confront her and find out what the hell is going on. Once we know what it is we can try and do something about it. Let’s call Iz and Kyle in the morning and see what they say and take it from there. Once we’ve spoken to them we can call Max and let him know what we’re planning. Okay?”

“Okay,” she replied reaching her hand out to caress Michael’s cheek. “I’m so glad you’re here with me Spaceboy. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Moving forward Michael rested his forehead against hers and then brought his hands up to cup her cheeks in his palms, rubbing his thumbs across her cheekbones. “That’s something you’re never going to have to find out. You’re stuck with me,” he told her vehemently.

Maria brought her arms up around Michael’s neck and Michael moved his hands away from her face to wrap around her waist. They leaned towards each other and just as they were about to kiss Maria whispered, “Good.”

Michael’s heart thumped faster in his chest and he quickly captured her lips in a passionate kiss. Moving back before the kiss got out of control he chuckled at the look of frustration Maria wore on her face. “Come on honey, let’s eat. Once we’re finished you can help me burn off some calories.”

“Oh really and how do you suggest we do that?”

“I’ll tell you later,” he answered smiling. Taking Maria’s hand in his he led her over to the kitchen table and pulled out the chair for her and after she was seated he went and sat down in his seat. “Let’s make a deal, no more talk about the stuff we’ll deal with tomorrow.”

Smiling back at him Maria answered, “Deal. Come on then, Spaceboy, let’s eat. The sooner we finish the sooner you can tell me how you propose burning off all those calories.”


*********


After opening the door of Michael’s apartment Max crossed the threshold and heard a crunching sound under his feet. He flicked the light switch on the wall and looked down and saw pieces of broken glass on the floor. Looking back up he couldn’t help gasping in shock at the sight in front of him. Closing the front door Max wandered around the apartment staring at the mess that had been created.

In the kitchen, plates and glasses had been smashed and the remnants were scattered all over the counter and floor, the coffee table had been turned over, the sofa cushions were lying haphazardly on the living room floor and a couple of Michael’s Metallica posters had been torn straight down the middle: one half still attached to the wall while the other half was on the floor. Max reluctantly walked towards Michael’s bedroom and after slowly pushing open the door he saw that the mattress had been pulled off the bed and all the bedding was lying in a crumpled heap, a couple more posters were in pieces, but worst of all was the photograph of Maria that sat in a silver frame on Michael’s nightstand. Moving closer for a better look Max could see that the frame’s glass had been smashed and the photo which had been ripped from the frame had been torn to pieces. Not knowing what to do, Max quickly left the bedroom and walked back into the living room where he slumped onto the couch. Seeing the telephone on the floor Max picked it up and quickly dialled the familiar number. While waiting for the call to be answered he tapped the fingers of his free hand impatiently on his knee. “Come on, pick it up damnit.”

A few moments later a voicemail message started playing,

“Hi, this is Liz. I can’t answer your call right now so please leave your name, number and any message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can. Thanks.”

“Liz, it’s Max. I need to speak to you urgently. I’m really worried about you.......I need to know that you’re okay? Please call me straight back on my cell phone.” He disconnected the call and then quickly dialled Isabel’s number. A few moments later Jesse answered and after the usual pleasantries were exchanged he went to call his wife.

“Hey Max, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so........”

“Sorry for interrupting Iz but I need you to come over to Michael’s apartment right now. I think things might be far worse than we realised. You might want to bring Kyle with you.”

“Is everyone okay? Are Maria and Michael okay?” Isabel asked concerned.

“Yeah, they’re fine. They’re staying at Maria’s place tonight and I ended up there after I left you and Kyle. I know it’s getting late but I really think you need to see this.”

“Okay, you call Kyle and tell him I’ll pick him up in a few minutes. We’ll be with you soon.”

“Thanks Iz. I think we need to keep this between us for now and not bother Michael and Maria. She’s been through enough already and it can wait until tomorrow.”

Isabel had no idea what it was that Max had found and her imagination was running wild picturing all sorts of scenarios. “I won’t say a word. I’m on my way so I’ll see you in a few.”

“Okay,” Max replied and then hung up. He then quickly dialled the Valenti’s number and luckily Kyle answered. He informed him that Isabel was on her way to pick him up and Kyle said he would be waiting for her.

Max paced the apartment waiting for the others to arrive. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have called anyone........I could have used my powers to put everything back together and pretended I never found the apartment like this,’ he thought to himself. Deep down though he knew this couldn’t be ignored and that they needed to discover what was going on sooner rather than later. His thoughts were broken by a knock at the door and he was relieved to see Isabel and Kyle standing on the doorstep.

“So, Max, what’s happened? You really scared me on the phone you know,” Isabel told him as she walked past him into the apartment. “Oh my God, what the hell happened here?”

Kyle nodded to Max as he entered and he froze in mid-step as he surveyed the damage. “Holy crap! Has someone broken in? Don’t tell me the FBI are back?”

“Max?”

Max took a deep breath before saying, “This isn’t the work of the FBI or a burglar. I think it’s safe to say this is the work of Liz Parker.”


*********


Chapter Nineteen

“So Michael, how many calories do you think we just burnt off?” Maria asked giggling. She was lying on her side in bed, propped up on one elbow and looking at Michael who was lying on his back beside her. They had been making love for the past couple of hours and she was feeling nice and relaxed.

“Hmmm, not nearly enough in my opinion so I think we’d better keep exercising,” he replied turning his head to smirk at her.

“Wouldn’t you prefer your exercise to be playing basketball with Max and Kyle? I know how much you enjoy it.”

“You are such a brat,” he told her jokingly as he grabbed her and flipped them over so he was on top. “I’d stay in bed with you all day if I could, you know that.”

Maria brought her arms up around Michael’s neck and pulled him down so his weight was pressing her further down into the mattress. “I know.........I feel the same way, Spaceboy.”

Michael moved his face closer to Maria’s until their lips were almost touching and he teased her by planting soft barely there kisses around her lips before slipping his tongue inside her mouth to play with hers.

Letting one arm come down around his shoulders, Maria placed her other hand on the back of Michael’s head and pressed down giving her the opportunity to deepen the kiss. She let her tongue dual with his before drawing back slightly and sucking first his top lip and then his bottom lip into her mouth and nibbling on it.

After what seemed like hours later but in reality was only a few minutes they broke apart panting for air and gazed lovingly at each other. “Why did I ever think getting intense was a bad thing, huh? I love getting intense with you,” Michael told her.

“I love getting intense with you too.”

Smiling warmly at each other they again moved closer and began to kiss passionately, their hands beginning to wander all over each others bodies when they both heard a sound which made them stop what they were doing.

“Michael, what was that?” Maria whispered.

“I’m not sure...........it sounded like the front door closing to me.”

“Do you think someone has broken in?”

“I don’t know, Maria. Let me grab my pants and I’ll go and have a look.”

“No, what if whoever it is has a gun or something? Let’s just call Jim or Sheriff Hanson.”

“Maria, that’ll take time,” he told her as he got out of bed and started pulling on his jeans. “I’ll creep downstairs and just see who it is and then I’ll come back up here and we can call the Sheriff’s Department, okay?”

“No, because I know you won’t come back up here. You’ll deal with it yourself and if you get hurt I don’t know what I.........”

“I’m not going to get hurt. I promise that as soon as I see who it is I’ll come back up here.”

“Promise?”

Leaning over so he was face to face with her Michael replied, “Absolutely promise,” before giving her a quick kiss. Just as he opened the bedroom door to head downstairs he heard a voice which made his blood freeze in his veins and suddenly he hit the floor and rolled under Maria’s bed.

“Maria, honey, are you up there?”

“Michael, what are you..........ohmigod! Mom’s back!” Maria quickly jumped out of bed and grabbed Michael’s shirt off the floor and pulled it on, buttoning it up as quickly as possible. Making sure there weren’t any more pieces of Michael’s clothing around the room Maria jumped back into bed and pulled the covers up around her. “I’m in my room, Mom,” she called out. “Spaceboy, you’d better stay out of sight, okay?” She hissed. ‘At least we now know it’s not a burglar,’ she thought to herself before adding, ‘Maybe a burglar would have been easier to deal with though.’

Amy entered Maria’s room and raised an eyebrow at her daughter lying in bed before walking over to her and giving her a hug. “Hi, honey.”

“Hi, Mom. How was your trip?”

“It was great. I really enjoyed myself and it was nice catching up with everyone.” Amy paused for a moment and smiled as she looked at her daughter, seeing her eyes sparkle with happiness. “Michael, why don’t you come out and say hello?”

“Mom......uh.........what are you talking about? Michael’s not here. I haven’t seen him tonight...........”

“Don’t lie to me sweetie. I’m not angry.........well not too angry. Come on Michael, I’m not going to bite.”

“Awww crap,” Michael muttered under his breath as he eased himself out from under Maria’s bed and got up off the floor. “Hey Ms Deluca. It’s.......um.......I mean, this isn’t what it looks like.......”

“I think it’s exactly what it looks like. Look, I’m not stupid so I’d appreciate it if the pair of you would just be honest with me. While I’m not overjoyed at my baby girl having sex in my house I can appreciate that the two of you are now adults and are in a mature relationship. The only thing I would ask is that you protect yourselves because while I’m happy about the two of you getting engaged I don’t want you rushing into parenthood........plus I’m far too young to be a grandmother.”

“Mom.......” Maria said blushing furiously.

“Uh......sure Ms Deluca,” Michael answered, also blushing.

“Michael, I think it’s about time you started calling me Amy seeing as you’re practically family,” she told him smiling. “Now why don’t I go downstairs and make some tea and you can tell me all about the proposal.”

“Uh......okay Mom, we’ll be down in a few minutes.”

“Good. Oh and another thing, I’d appreciate it if you two didn’t have sex when I’m at home because I have to tell you these walls are rather thin and.......”

“MOM!” Maria screeched making Michael jump.

“What?” Amy asked innocently. “Now that you two are engaged I don’t mind Michael staying over and sharing your room, but I don’t particularly want to hear what the two of you are getting up to in here.....”

“Mom, why don’t you go and start making the tea and Michael and I will be right down, okay?”

“Fine,” Amy replied trying to suppress her laughter at her daughter and future son-in-law’s red faces.

After Amy had left the room Michael and Maria shared a look and then burst out laughing. “I can’t believe she almost caught us having sex,” Michael said.

“Tell me about it. If we hadn’t have heard the front door closing and Mom coming up the stairs I don’t know who would have got the bigger shock.”

“Do you think she’s really okay about me staying over?” He asked.

Maria nodded. “Yeah, my Mom doesn’t say anything she doesn’t mean. I nearly died though when she started talking about the walls being thin,” she admitted.

“Yeah, me too. So, are you coming downstairs in just my shirt or are you gonna give it back so I can wear it?”

In answer Maria threw back the covers on the bed and then raising herself up on her knees slowly started to unbutton the shirt. She reveled in the intense look Michael was giving her as his eyes roamed all over her upper body. Letting the shirt slip off her shoulders she threw it at him and then getting off the bed sashayed over to her wardrobe and selected a purple and white cotton sundress which she slipped on over her head and then straightened out.

“You are so going to pay for that later,” Michael told her, his voice sounding deep and husky, as he pulled on the shirt she had thrown at him.

“What do you mean?” She teased knowing full well that he hadn’t taken his eyes off her once as she got dressed.

“You know full well what I mean.......putting on a show for me.”

“Michael, sweetie, I was simply giving you back your shirt and then getting dressed.....you know so we could go downstairs and talk to my Mom. I don’t think you going downstairs topless and me going downstairs bottomless would be appropriate,” she chuckled as she started to walk towards the door of her room. Before she got there Michael grabbed her arm and drew her close to his body where she could feel what effect her little show had had on him.

“Is it still okay if I stay over tonight? I mean, I told Max he could stay at mine because he said he had some thinking to do about you know who.”

“It’s more than okay but you heard Mom, no nookie when she’s here,” she told him as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss.

“Damn,” he mumbled after they had pulled apart. “Oh well, I’ll just have to make you pay another time. It’ll give me time to come up with a good punishment.” He grinned wickedly.

“Oooh I’ll look forward to that.” She gave him another kiss and before he could deepen it, she grabbed his hand and pulled him out of her room and towards the stairs.


*********


Max, Isabel and Kyle sat down on the couch in Michael’s apartment still staring at the mess that surrounded them. They all knew that Michael would go absolutely ballistic when he saw the state of his apartment. Max finally broke the silence.

“I......er........I was thinking that maybe we could put everything back the way it was and that way Michael doesn’t have to know about it.”

Sharing a look of disbelief with Isabel Kyle said, “Are you kidding? Michael needs to know about this Max. We can’t just sweep this under the carpet and pretend it didn’t happen. I agree that we should wait until tomorrow to tell him but we have got to tell him. What do you say Isabel?”

“I agree with you Kyle. Liz already crossed the line when she said what she did to Maria but what she’s done here is unreal. Why the hell would she do this to Michael’s apartment anyway? What the hell has he ever done to her?”

Max fixed his eyes on the floor and whispered, “Well, he’s never really liked her and he’s made no secret of that.......”

“Maybe so Max but that doesn’t give her the right to come here and trash his home. I say we go and find Miss Parker and confront her. I think we have tip-toed around this for too long and I for one want to know what her damn problem is.” Isabel said vehemently.

“I think I should be the one to speak to her first,” Max said.

Kyle shook his head and said, “No, I don’t think so. I think we all need to do it so that she’ll find it harder to come up with any excuses.”

“He’s got a point, Max. If you do it she’ll give you those big doe eyes and you’ll feel all sorry for her and forget about what she’s actually done to your two best friends. I say the three of us go find her now,” Isabel told him.

“I don’t know where she is. I’ve left a message on her cell phone but she hasn’t called me back yet.”

“Somehow I don’t think she will call you back. Let’s head over to the CrashDown and see if she’s there,” Kyle said getting up from the couch.

Isabel followed suit and grabbed her keys off the coffee table which they had returned to its upright position. “Wait a second, what happens if Michael decides to come back here tonight and sees this mess?”

“I didn’t think of that. Maybe one of us should go round to see him and tell him what’s happened.”

“No, he’ll be at Maria’s tonight. They were just about to have dinner when I left and they looked pretty settled. Besides, Michael agreed that I could spend some time here alone to think things over,” Max told the pair.

Opening the front door Kyle looked at Max and Isabel and said, “Okay then. Let’s get this over with.”


*********


Liz was laying on her bed listening to some music on the radio when she saw Max appear at her window closely followed by Isabel and Kyle. Getting off her bed she walked towards the window and opened it before climbing out to stand in front of the them. “Hey guys, what brings you out here so late? Has something happened?”

Kyle and Isabel looked at each other while Max shuffled on his feet, looking everywhere but at her face.

“What’s going on?” She asked.

“Nothing’s happened. Well no, that’s not exactly true. Something has happened but I......”

‘And this guy is supposed to have ruled a planet? Yeah right,’ Kyle thought to himself shaking his head. “Look Liz, we were just wondering where you were tonight.”

“Why,” she asked defensively. “Where am I supposed to have been? Was I supposed to be meeting you guys or something?”

“No, you weren’t. Were you at Michael’s apartment earlier on this evening by any chance?” Isabel asked the brunette.

“Yeah, I was there with Max but we left together. Right Max?”

Max stopped looking at his feet long enough to look up into Liz’s eyes and could tell she was silently telling him to agree with her. He quickly looked back down at his feet and mumbled, “Uh........that’s not true Liz. We didn’t leave together.”

Liz glared at him and Isabel saw the flash of anger in her eyes before it quickly passed. “Yes Max, we did. Remember you had to go to Isabel’s for dinner but you walked me home first and told me you would phone me later.”

“So if Max walked you home why did you turn up on my doorstep after he’d arrived saying you wanted to spend some time with him?” Isabel accused.

“Isabel, what are you talking about? I never turned up at your house. Max walked me home, said he’d call me later and then left. This is the first time I’ve seen him since about quarter to six this evening.”

Kyle looked at Liz and noticed beads of perspiration on her forehead. ‘She knows we’re onto her and she’s hoping Max is going to feel sorry for her and back her up. Does she think that Isabel dreamt her appearance at her house or something?’

“What are you staring at Kyle? Why are you even here anyway? Oh wait, you’ve got the hots for Isabel haven’t you? Ooops, have I said too much?” She sing-songed sarcastically.

Kyle tried to stay calm even though he knew his face was probably so red it was a beacon in the dark. “I think we’ve heard enough of your lies for one night, Liz. We know you were at Michael’s apartment after Max left to meet Isabel and we know you two had a fight just before he left because he postponed your movie date. All three of us have been to the apartment Liz. We’ve all seen what you did so why don’t you just admit it and tell us why?”

“What am I supposed to have done? I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about Kyle. Don’t blame the state of the apartment on me just because I was the last one there,” Liz ranted.

“Hang on a minute Liz, I thought you just said you weren’t the last one there. If you left the apartment with Max why would you say not to blame the state of the apartment on you just because you were the last person there?” Isabel asked sweetly.

“I....I didn’t say that.......you’re all putting words in my mouth and are trying to trick me into saying I’ve done something when I haven’t. If someone happened to break in and trash Michael’s apartment why come to me? Maybe he and Maria got into another fight and they caused the mess. Why don’t you go and ask them what happened?”

“Who said Michael’s apartment was trashed, Liz?” Max asked finding the confidence to bring his eyes up to stare into hers. “We never said anything about the apartment having been trashed. Kyle simply said we’d seen what you did to it, that could have meant anything so why mention the word trashed, huh?”

Liz’s face burned scarlet and neither Max, Isabel or Kyle could tell if it was due to embarrassment or fury but they soon found out.

“I am so sick of everyone running to Maria’s defence all the time. What’s so damn special about her, huh? Everyone used to think of her as Liz’s wacky sidekick and all of a sudden she copies me and gets herself an alien boyfriend and then when I go and visit my aunt in Florida she tries to steal my own boyfriend from me.”

Isabel stood there with her mouth open, amazed at Liz’s outburst. “What the hell are you talking about? Maria is your best friend remember so how can you say all those things about her?”

“What do you care Isabel? As far as I was aware you hated Maria. I remember the way you talked about her after she had that prang with Valenti and he called her down to the station to grill her about Max. You and Michael were so convinced she’d crumble and would spill her guts to him.”

“That was a long time ago and a lot has happened since then. I know now how fiercely loyal Maria is to everyone she considers a friend. And she never copied you by starting to date Michael. If you must know her and Michael got together before you and my brother.”

“Oh, you’re talking about the heatwave when I caught the pair of them rolling around on the floor of the CrashDown? Everyone knows he was just doing what everyone else in town was doing.”

“Actually, Liz, I’m not talking about the heatwave. I was referring to the time that you and Max went to see River Dog and I was stuck with Maria and Michael in the CrashDown. They were flirting like mad and I got fed up watching them so I left and it was only recently that I found out they had their first kiss that night.”

Max turned to look at Isabel. “I never knew that. How did you find out?” He asked.

“I was at the CrashDown late one evening and Maria was clearing up and we got talking and she told me.”

“She probably made it up so I........”

“Why would she make it up? Is it so hard to believe that what she and Michael have is special? I’ll admit that I was surprised when Guerin hooked up with Deluca but you only have to see the way he’s changed to know that their relationship works and I think it’s great that they’ve decided to take the next step and.......”

“What next step, Kyle? What are you talking about?”

“Oh crap,” Isabel mumbled under her breath.

Kyle turned his head to the side to look at Isabel and she nodded at him to go ahead and break the news to her. “Well........um........it’s just that Michael and Maria got engaged the other night.”

Liz was stunned into silence but quickly recovered and screeched, “What! Are they mad? I thought that stupid bitch listened to my advice and broke things off with him. I can’t believe she ran to him and made him propose.”

“Don’t you dare call her that. If anyone’s the bitch it’s you Liz. And you call what you said to her advice?”

Kyle and Isabel stood there stunned at what they heard coming out of Max’s mouth and sharing a quick look they both smiled knowing it was about time Max stood up for himself where Liz was concerned.

“Yes Max, what I gave Maria was advice and I said what I did with her best intentions at heart. Michael isn’t the right guy for her and it’s best she knows that sooner rather than later when she’s lumbered with a few kids and has to claim handouts. Anyway, what do you know about what I told her? Oh wait, let me guess. She came running to you in tears to tell you all about it. Can’t you see that she’s trying to drive a wedge between you, Isabel and Michael. She almost succeeded when Michael stayed on Earth for her and you two were about to take off never to be seen again......”

“Will you shut up!” Kyle shouted. “I am so sick of you telling us all these hateful things about Maria. Not one single thing you’ve said about her is true so can it.”

Isabel moved closer to him and placed a hand on his arm before saying, “It’s okay, don’t let her get to you.” Turning to face Liz she said, “So you’ve done all this because you’re jealous of Maria, is that it? You’ve destroyed a life long friendship with her and your friendships with us because you feel that Maria has somehow taken the spotlight of you.”

Liz moved back to lean against the wall and then slid down and began to cry, covering her face with her hands. “None of you know what Maria is really like.......she........she’s said so many horrible things about all of you yet you’re all here defending her when I’m the one you should be defending.......”

While Max, Isabel and Kyle all looked at each other they didn’t notice Liz sneaking a look at them through the gaps between her fingers and the small smile that twisted her features. Unfortunately for her Isabel suddenly turned back to look at Liz and caught her smiling.

“I knew you were lying you little bitch,” Isabel said. “We’ve all been concerned about you since you started acting weird with us and wanted to try and help you but you seem to think this is some kind of game.”

Wiping the smile off her face and trying to look innocent Liz said, “Isabel, how can you be so nasty to me? We’re practically family.”

Isabel snorted. “Excuse me? What do you mean practically family?”

“Yeah Liz, I’d like to hear this.”

“Well, I’m........we’re going to get married in the not too distant future. Right Max?”

Max sighed and shook his head. “I think after everything that has happened you can change that statement to we were going to get married. Until you can admit there’s a problem with what you’ve done to Maria and to Michael I really don’t see any future for us, Liz.”

Liz moved away from the wall and stood up to face the others. “How can you say that after everything we’ve been through........you brought me back to life, Max. I know you wouldn’t have done that for just anyone. I know you wouldn’t have risked everything for one of the other waitresses.”

Kyle had been standing back listening to what was happening around him and he had heard about enough. “You mean he wouldn’t have done the same for Maria, right?”

“Well he wouldn’t have. He loves me and always has and well........I’m special.”

“Let’s ask him shall we? Max, is what Liz saying true? If it had been Maria that had been shot that day in the CrashDown would you have just ignored it?”

Max looked at Liz for a moment trying to work out what had happened to his girlfriend, trying to understand what could have made her change so much in a relatively short space of time. Even though he had saved Liz’s life and the consequences had been far-reaching for all of them he knew he would do the same thing again. He also knew that while he didn’t really know Maria back then except as Liz’s friend, he could say without a doubt that he would have healed her had she been the one shot instead that day.

“Max?” Liz’s voice wavered with uncertainty.

“I would have healed her Liz. I wouldn’t have been able to just sit there and do nothing and I know you would have thanked me. Well, the old Liz would have.”

“Isn’t that funny? You would have saved Maria yet the guy who supposedly loves her so much would have let her die if he had been there on his own. There’s no way Michael would have risked everything for a human. I wonder what Maria would think about that,” Liz chuckled.

“What’s happened to you Liz, huh? What has happened to make you suddenly become a bitch?”

“It takes one to know one Isabel. And nothing has happened to me except I’ve reached the end of my tether dealing with you pathetic losers. You’re all going to be stuck in this dusty town while I move on and make something of myself. No doubt I’ll come back and visit in like ten years or something and you’ll all be stuck here doing exactly the same things you’re doing now.”

Kyle smiled at her. “You wanna know something? That really doesn’t bother me anymore. There are worse places to live and work and I never thought I’d hear myself say it but I’m glad I’m friends with these people.”

“Thanks Valenti,” Max replied sarcastically.

“You know what I mean,” he told him. “If you hate this town so much Liz maybe you shouldn’t wait until after graduation to leave.”

“I can’t believe you’re all ganging up on me. So I told Maria a few home truths, big deal. You mark my words she’ll be thanking me in the long run.”

“Unbelievable,” Isabel muttered shaking her head. Turning to the two guys Isabel said, “We might as well get going because we just seem to be going round in circles. At least we know for sure that her behaviour is down to jealousy and nothing alien.”

“Agreed, come on let’s go,” Kyle said.

Kyle and Isabel started walking towards the roof’s ladder while Max stood in front of Liz just looking at her. “What happened to you Liz?” He whispered.

“Do you know how embarrassing it is to find that your status and position in this town has been overtaken by someone who is from a broken home and is poorer than you?”

Max stood there openmouthed. “How can you say something like that about your best friend? You’ve always been there for each other since you were practically babies.”

“What can I say? I must be a better actress than I thought. Being friends with me gave Maria a certain elevation in people’s eyes, she wasn’t just the kid whose dad ran off and whose mom was always away on supposed trips when everyone knew she was really meeting guys. If anyone was used her I’d say it was me.”

“You really are something.”

“Thanks Max,” Liz answered.

“That wasn’t meant to be taken as a compliment.”

“Whatever. I think you should leave now with your friends. I’ll see you around,” she said.

Max turned away from her and made his way over to ladder and slowly began climbing down until Liz Parker was out of his sight.

When he reached the bottom he looked sadly over at Kyle and Isabel. “Well, I guess that’s me and Liz finished then.”

“I’m sorry Max, I really am. At least you know now what she’s really like,” Isabel told him as she moved closer and hugged him.

“Yeah, I guess I just never thought we’d break up and definitely not like this.” Pulling back from his sister he gave her a weak smile and said, “What should we do now? It’s getting late so I don’t think we should disturb Michael and Maria with this. What do you two think?”

Kyle nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I think telling them can wait until the morning but I think one of us should definitely stay at the apartment in case Liz decides to go back and cause any more damage.”

“I’m staying there tonight anyway so I’ll keep an eye on things. Let’s all meet at Maria’s place at eight tomorrow morning and we can break the bad news to them then.”

“Is Michael working tonight? If he is, he finishes at seven and then heads straight over to the café for breakfast with the guys.” Kyle asked.

“No, I think after he and Maria got themselves back on track he called in a took a couple of days off because he didn’t like leaving her all alone. Let’s meet at seven instead as Maria’s shift at the café doesn’t start until seven-thirty so we’ll hopefully catch her before she leaves.”

“Okay. Come on, I’ll give you two a ride home.” Isabel told them as they all walked over to her car and got in. Kyle got in the passenger seat while Max took the back and Isabel couldn’t help but feel sorry for her brother as she occasionally looked at him in her rear view mirror. She knew how deeply he loved Liz and that the things she had said to all of them tonight had wounded him. ‘We’ll just have to show him that he’s better off without her,’ she thought to herself.


*********


Chapter Twenty

Amy woke up early the next morning and after pulling on her dressing gown she quietly went downstairs to make herself a cup of coffee. Waiting for the kettle to boil she started setting the table for breakfast for herself, Maria and Michael who had stayed over. While Amy busied herself in the kitchen she chuckled as she recalled the shocked look on the young couple’s faces when she had told them it was fine with her for Michael to spend the night now they were engaged.

When the kettle had boiled and she had made the coffee, Amy sat down at the kitchen table and thought back to when Michael had called in to see her at the shop before she left for her trip and with a serious expression on his face had said he wanted to talk to her about Maria. Her first thought was that something bad had happened but he quickly put her mind at ease and reassured her that nothing was wrong. She smiled as she remembered the way he had then nervously stuttered and stammered as he tried explaining his reason for being there. Placing a hand on his she had given it a gentle squeeze and told him to just say whatever it was. The words that left Michael’s lips had surprised her but when she looked into his eyes she could see all the love he held for her daughter and she had no qualms about giving her consent to him.

Amy Deluca knew without a doubt that despite a few early bumps in the road, Michael and Maria were perfect for each other and if she was being totally honest could actually admit to being a little envious. Her daughter had found the love of her life at sixteen whereas she was still looking and at times felt it may never happen for her. A noise behind her startled her and quickly turning in her seat she smiled when she saw Maria standing there.

“Hi Mom, what are you doing up so early? I thought you would be having a lie in this morning,” Maria said smiling back at her mother as she poured herself a cup of coffee and then sat down in the chair opposite her.

“I couldn’t sleep sweetie so I thought I’d make a start on breakfast. Seeing as we have something to celebrate how about I make us all some pancakes and waffles? Michael likes that, right?”

“Michael likes anything,” she joked. “That sounds great though. Do you want a hand making them?”

“Sure, but shouldn’t you be getting ready for work soon?”

“I don’t have to leave until quarter past seven so I’ve got plenty of time and to be honest I’m not really looking forward to going in today,” Maria admitted quietly as she got up from the table.

Frowning at her daughter’s response Amy asked, “Why’s that? I thought you would be all excited about telling people about your engagement.”

Maria tried to ignore her mother’s question by busying herself with getting a couple of bowls out of the cupboard together with the ingredients they needed to prepare breakfast.

“Maria, what’s going on? Have you and Liz had an argument?” Walking over to where she was standing, Amy placed a hand on Maria’s arm stilling her and said, “Let’s sit down for a moment and you can tell me what’s going on. You know you can tell me anything, sweetie?”

Turning around Maria threw herself into Amy’s arms and hugged her tight. Amy hugged her back, softly stroking her hair with one hand. She led her daughter into the living room and they sat side by side on the couch, Amy’s arm around Maria’s shoulders and Maria’s head resting in the nook between Amy’s neck and shoulder.

“Has this got something to do with you and Michael getting engaged?” Amy asked.

“No, Liz doesn’t even know about the engagement........well I haven’t told her but one of the others has probably told her by now I guess.”

“Why haven’t you told Liz yet? I would have thought she would be the first person you would tell.”

“Yeah, I thought so too. I don’t know what’s happened to her Mom but she’s changed.....and not for the better either. She....she said some horrible things to me about my relationship with Michael and she even said...........,” she trailed off. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Amy moved her arm from around Maria’s shoulders and placing her hands on both her daughter’s shoulders turned her so they could look into each others faces. “It does matter Maria. Anything that hurts you hurts me so I want to know exactly what she has said to you.”

Maria could feel the tears prickling her eyes and bit her lip to stop herself from crying. “She......uh.......she said that Michael and I would end up like you and Dad. That Michael and I would fight all the time and make each other miserable........that any children we had would suffer the way I suffered when Dad ran off and left us. I don’t understand why she would say all those things to me when she knows how much Michael and I love each other. I know we’re not perfect and Lord knows we’ve had more of our share of ups and downs since we’ve been together but.........”

Trying to contain her anger for the moment so she could concentrate on comforting Maria, Amy interrupted by saying, “No buts, Maria. I and everyone else can see how much you and Michael love each other and so you’re not perfect. Tell me one couple who is? I have seen first hand how much that young man loves you and how much he thinks of you. I’ve seen him grow up from being a lonely, hurt and angry boy into a caring, loving and happy young man.”

“We are talking about Michael Guerin here, right?” Maria asked smiling.

“Very funny. You know what I mean though?”

Maria nodded and said, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I hurt him though Mom. After all the poisonous things Liz said I.......I broke up with him and gave him his ring back. I hate myself for doing that, especially when I know how hard it was for him to put himself out there and propose to me.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. I take it Michael didn’t listen to you seeing as you’re together.”

“He’s been so great. He gave me the space I needed before he came to talk to me and he told me that he would never leave me. That even though he didn’t know what would happen in the future he just knew he would never leave me willingly.”

Amy smiled and nodded her head gently. “Do you know why Liz would suddenly say those things to you? Has something happened recently between the two of you that could have upset her in some way?”

Shaking her head Maria answered, “No, that’s what is so weird about all this. Michael and I decided to meet up with Isabel and Kyle and see if they knew anything but they didn’t. Max came over last night after having dinner with the two of them and he told us that Liz has been acting strangely with him too. I can’t help feeling that she’s jealous of me or of my relationship with Michael. Her relationship with Max hasn’t been going so well so maybe she’s angry that my relationship with Michael is back on track and we’re closer than ever.”

“That makes a lot of sense but it certainly doesn’t give her the right to lash out at you,” Amy said before glancing at the clock on the mantel. “Oh wow, look at the time. Let’s go and get breakfast started and whilst I’m cooking you can go and have your shower and then wake sleeping beauty up. Is Michael working this morning too?”

As the two women got up from the couch and made their way back into the kitchen Maria replied, “No, he’s working at the CrashDown late this afternoon and he’s not due back at Meta Chem until the day after tomorrow. He took a couple of days off so he could take care of me after what happened with Liz.”

Amy smiled and silently thanked Michael for doing that for Maria and made a mental note to thank him herself when she had a moment alone with him as she knew how easily embarrassed he got when someone praised him.

For the next twenty minutes or so mother and daughter worked together to prepare a celebration breakfast, talking and sharing the latest gossip the whole time. When the pancakes and waffles were ready to be cooked Amy gave Maria a gentle slap on her butt and shooed her out of the kitchen.

“What was that for?” Maria pouted.

“Go upstairs, get yourself ready for work and wake Michael up. By the time you’re both dressed breakfast will be ready. Don’t take too long because I will come up and get you......despite the damage it will probably cause to my eyes,” she joked.

“Okay, okay, I’m going.” Maria was almost out of the kitchen when she turned back to face Amy. “Mom?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

“Thank you for listening to me this morning and thank you for giving your consent to Michael so he could propose to me.”

Amy walked over to Maria and pulled her into her arms and hugged her tightly before drawing back slightly. “You’re very welcome, honey. The only thing I want is for you both to be happy and I know you make each other happy. Now, I won’t tell you again, go and get dressed.” She scolded with a mock serious look on her face.

“Yes Ma’am,” Maria called out as she headed out of the kitchen and made her way upstairs. Opening the door to her bedroom Maria smiled as she watched Michael in their bed sprawled out on his back still fast asleep. He was naked except for his boxers which he had insisted on wearing just in case Amy decided to enter the bedroom. Climbing up onto the bed as quietly as possible, Maria leaned over him and softly kissed his lips. She smiled when his tongue came out to play with hers and she pulled back stopping him from deepening the kiss. “Mornin’ Spaceboy.”

“Morning, honey. What time is it?” Michael asked stretching his arms above his head.

“It’s quarter to seven. Mom and I have been downstairs preparing a celebratory breakfast and it will be ready soon so she told me to come up and wake you. I’ve got to leave for the CrashDown in just over half an hour so I’m going to go and have a quick shower,” she told him.

“I’m coming to the CrashDown with you so I’ll get up now too.” Wiggling his eyebrows suggestively he said, “Why don’t we save some time and shower together?”

“Nice try but I’ve got a feeling if we do that it isn’t gonna be quick and besides we promised Mom we wouldn’t do anything when she’s here.”

“Awww come on Maria, I know we promised but if she’s busy cooking I’d say we’ve got a good ten minutes before she calls us downstairs and it’s not like she can hear us all the way down there.”

“I don’t know.......”

“Please?”

Maria looked at her fiancé and thought, ‘What the hell.’ She quickly jumped off the bed and grabbing his hand pulled him off the bed and said, “Come on then, but we have to be quick and we’ve got to remember to lock the door.”

“Got it.”

As soon as they were in the bathroom and had locked the door they were in each others arms kissing passionately. Maria pulled Michael’s boxers down and when they reached his feet he kicked them aside. Michael meanwhile made short work of unbuttoning the shirt Maria was wearing and once it was off he let his hands wander all over her soft skin, stroking her back and then bringing his hands to her front and cupping her breasts in his palms.

“Do you know how hard it was last night wanting to make love to you but not being able to because of your mom’s request?”

“Uh huh,” Maria moaned as Michael’s lips pressed hot, wet kisses down her neck and she gasped in pleasure when they reached one of her breasts. Maria combed her fingers through his hair as she savoured the attention he was paying each of her breasts in turn. “Michael.....baby, we haven’t got time for this...........she’s gonna be calling us soon...........”

Reluctantly pulling away, Michael looked deep into Maria’s eyes and smirked. “You’re right so we’d better make it fast.” Moving quickly he turned on the shower and adjusted the temperature until it was just right and then motioned for Maria to climb in before he followed. Giving her a cheeky smile he told her, “Okay, you start washing from the top and I’ll make a start down here,” and with that Michael grabbed the bottle of shower gel and kneeling in front of her he began to wash from her feet upwards.

Maria simply watched mesmerized as he lathered the gel up in his hands and then applied it to her skin using firm, circular strokes. Leaning back against the cool tile with one hand pressed against the adjacent wall, she lost herself in his touch and a moment later released a surprised squeal when his hands massaged in between her legs and he inserted a long finger into her slick passage. “Uhhh.......more......Michael.........please......”

Michael’s eyes were focused on Maria’s face and at her request he added another finger and using his thumb circled her clit. He found a rhythm that he knew Maria loved and he kept his eyes locked on her face as she rocked herself on his fingers.

“Yessss........feels so good..........” Opening her eyes she looked into Michael’s face and could see all the love he felt for her. Wanting him closer she crooked a finger and beckoned to him.

Thinking he knew what she wanted, Michael moved closer and flicked his tongue over her clit before sucking the hard little nub between his lips. He could sense she was close and sped up the movement of his fingers inside her and was surprised when he heard her cry out.

“No.......stop. Please.....”

Michael stopped what he was doing and moved back, feeling a little confused. “Why did you ask me to stop? I.....er......I thought I was doing what you like........”

Reaching down she grabbed one of his hands and pulled gently so he knew she wanted him to stand up. Once he was on his feet Maria pulled him so he was flush against her and was pressing her harder into the wall. “Baby, you were doing what I love but seeing as we’ve got to be quick I want to feel you inside me. If all you do is go down on me that’s all we’ll have time for and I’ll be left wanting all day and you know how frustrating that can be.........for both of us,” she told him, giving him a sexy grin.

“Oh yeah.......”

Maria moved one hand between their bodies and slowly took a hold of his hardened length and pumped it a couple of times, enjoying the sounds Michael was making. He placed his hand over hers and positioned his c*ck at her entrance. Gently picking Maria up by her waist she wrapped her legs around his hips and he held her firmly against the wall. Maria gripped Michael’s shoulders and held tight as he thrust inside her and then repeated the action over and over. Maria moved against him, meeting his thrusts with her own.

Sensing Maria was on the verge of climaxing, Michael shifted slightly so that her clit could rub against his pubic bone and he couldn’t help grinning at the ecstatic look on her face. “Like that, huh?” He teased.

“Nuh huh........I love it..........and I love you Spaceboy........”

“I love you too.........I’m so close, Maria..........are you ready?”

Just at that moment there was a knock on the bathroom door. “Maria, are you and Michael ready yet ‘cos breakfast is ready and it’s on the table?”

The two lovers looked into each others eyes and burst out laughing, muffling their laughter by burying their faces in each others shoulders. After recovering slightly Maria shushed him before calling out, “We’re coming.”

Michael laughed even harder at that comment and in retaliation Maria pinched his nipple hard. “Shhh Michael,” she whispered. To her mom she called out again, “We’re just finishing up in here and will be down in a few minutes.”

“Okay, don’t be too long because Max, Isabel and Kyle have just arrived and want to see the two of you,” Amy said before she went back downstairs.

“Well, that’s one way of putting a dampener on things, huh?” Michael said at hearing that piece of news.

Michael’s c*ck was still sheathed within Maria’s body and she moved herself along his length, moaning at the sensation. “Come on Michael, I’m so close.........you can’t just stop now. Forget about them for the moment.........please?”

“Your wish is my command,” he replied before he pulled back and then thrust inside again. He slowly inched forward and captured Maria’s lips with his own and thrust his tongue into her mouth, mimicking the actions of their lower bodies.

Maria turned her head to the side and breathed in some much needed air, loving the feeling of Michael’s lips sucking on the skin of her neck and nipping at it playfully with his teeth. For some odd reason a vision of that night at the CrashDown during the heatwave flashed before her eyes and she smiled remembering how intense things got as they rolled around on the café’s floor and how Michael seem so determined on marking her skin that night.

Slipping a hand between them, Michael pinched Maria’s clit making her scream out in pleasure and he quickly pressed his lips against hers to muffle her cries. Maria dug her fingernails into Michael’s shoulders knowing the added bite of pain would speed things up and a few thrusts later Michael came, emptying himself inside of Maria and the primal feel of that happening gave Maria the added push and pulling Michael closer she sank her teeth into his shoulder to stop her screaming out as she came all over Michael’s c*ck.

“Ohmigod Michael! That felt so good..........didn’t it feel good?”

“Nevermind good, that felt great.” He leaned forward and rested his forehead against hers and smiled softly. “I guess we’d better hurry up and finish getting washed and dressed before Amy comes back up, huh?”

Maria laughed and replied, “Yeah, I guess we should. Maybe we can stay at your place tonight and be as noisy as we want.”

“Definitely,” he said giving her a kiss. “Come on then, let’s finish up in here and go and see what’s brought Max and Co. here so early.”


*********


Ten minutes later Maria and Michael came downstairs and entered the kitchen where they saw everyone including Amy sitting in the kitchen. Kyle had a big plate of food in front of him and was tucking in like he hadn’t eaten for a week.

“That had better not be my breakfast you’re eating there, Valenti.” Michael joked.

“As if I’d dare Guerin,” Kyle replied with his mouth full.

“Getting up from her chair Amy walked over to the oven where she retrieved a couple of plates of pancakes and waffles that she had placed in there for keeping warm. “Don’t worry Michael, I saved yours and Maria’s.”

“Thanks Amy,” he replied giving the older woman a smile.

Maria went and sat down in Amy’s vacated seat and Max got up from his chair so Michael could sit down.

“Thanks Maxwell. So why are you three out here so early? What’s happened now?” He asked as he poured maple syrup over his pancakes and then added some tabasco too.

“Why does something have to have happened for us to come and see you?” Max asked.

“Spit it out. It’s obvious something’s happened so just tell us,” Michael told him before taking a bite of his food.

Glancing at Isabel and seeing the look on her face, Maria paled. “Oh God, what’s happened? Whatever it is please.......just say it.”

Isabel placed a hand on Maria’s arm and said, “Okay something has happened but no one’s died or anything bad like that. It has to do with you know who.”

Maria noticed Isabel looking at Amy. “It’s okay Isabel, my Mom knows what’s happened concerning Liz. I told her this morning about the things she said to me the other day.”

Michael paused from eating for a second and turned to look at Maria. “You didn’t tell me that.”

“I forgot what with our........um.........distraction a little while ago,” she whispered to him. “Mom and I talked while we were preparing breakfast.”

Picking up Maria’s hand Michael pressed a kiss to her palm and she then stroked his cheek before turning back to Isabel. “So what’s she done now?”

Isabel’s eyes darted first to Kyle and then to Max and it was obvious neither of them wanted to be the one to tell Michael so she knew it would have to be her. “It sort of concerns Michael a bit more than you this time Maria.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? Will one of you just tell us what the hell that bitch has done now or is this supposed to be a game of twenty questions?”

Maria reached over and held Michael’s hand as Amy came up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Amy was the one to speak first. “Try and stay calm, Michael. I’m guessing that whatever they have to tell you isn’t easy to say just as it isn’t going to be easy for you to hear. Am I right?”

Max and Kyle nodded their heads and Isabel answered, “Yes. Michael, your........uh.........your apartment has.....um......been trashed. Max went there last night after he left you and Maria and he walked in to find the place had been turned upside down.”

“And you’re saying that Liz did this?” Maria asked after she had taken a sip of orange juice.

“Yeah. After I discovered the mess I called Iz and Kyle and they came straight over. Iz decided that the time had come to confront Liz so we went over to the CrashDown and had it out with her. She denied it at first but lucky for us she slipped up and gave the game away.”

Michael’s face was unreadable and turning to Maria he said, “I have to go over there and see the damage for myself. I’ll have Isabel go with you to work and I’ll come by in a little while.”

“No, I’m coming with you. This is all my fault.........if it wasn’t for me......”

“No! There is no way this is your fault so stop thinking like that Maria. This is Parker’s problem and she’s picked the wrong people to mess with. I’ll give Mr Parker a call and tell him you’re not coming in this morning.........”

“Don’t worry about that. You two get going and I’ll call Jeff and explain that something urgent has come up. He’ll probably take more notice if it comes from me. Just be careful and let me know what happens okay?”

Maria and Michael got up from their chairs and headed out of the kitchen but before reaching the front door Michael turned back and went back into the kitchen and kissed Amy on the cheek. “Thank you........for everything.”

Amy smiled at him and raising a hand patted the side of his face affectionately. “You’re welcome.”

Michael gave her a quick smile and then practically ran out of the house to go and see the extent of the damage caused to his apartment.


*********


The others stood back as Michael tentatively opened the door to his apartment. Maria who was holding his hand gave it a squeeze and he gave her a grateful smile. Keeping a hold of her hand he pushed the door open and stepped inside and couldn’t stop the shocked gasp escaping his lips.

Maria gripped Michael’s hand tighter as she looked around the apartment and for the second time that morning felt the sharp sting of tears threatening to fall. She blinked a few times to clear her vision and a tear rolled down each cheek. “Mi......Michael......”

Turning to look at her and seeing the tears on her face he pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. “It’s okay Maria.........please don’t cry.”

“But look what she did to your home,” she said as she pulled back slightly and looked around again, surveying the damage.

Bending down so his mouth was by her ear he whispered, “You’re my home, Maria.”

She turned to look into his eyes and saw the serious expression on his face. Smiling at him she answered, “You’re my home too Spaceboy.”

Straightening up he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and together they walked around the apartment until they reached his bedroom. Stepping inside they gasped in unison at the sight that greeted them.

Giving Maria’s shoulder a squeeze before releasing it, Michael walked over to the bed where he could see his silver photograph frame lying face down. As he walked closer he saw pieces of what looked like paper scattered around and he realised that the photograph had been ripped from the frame and torn to shreds. His anger got the better of him and the light-bulb inside his lamp suddenly exploded making Maria jump. “Why would she do this? Is it our fault that her relationship with Max isn’t working out?”

“Baby, calm down. It’s going to be okay,” Maria soothed as she walked closer to him and wrapping her arms around him from behind she rested one hand over his heart.

“That picture was special and she.........she just ripped it to pieces. It’s like she thinks no one has the right to be happy if she’s not, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. If you try and calm down a little maybe you can fix the photo with your powers or we could ask Isabel or Max to do it.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that.”

Michael turned around in her arms so he could face her and she wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’m not trying to take away the seriousness of what Liz has done but let’s try and look on the bright side. Some if not all of the stuff that’s been damaged can be restored using your powers, like the posters for example. I know how much they mean to you,” she told him.

He moved quickly seizing her lips with his and kissed her hard before pulling back. “You mean so much more to me than a few posters...........although Metallica comes a very close second,” he teased.

“Ha ha, very funny.” Pressing down on his neck forcing his lips against hers again she kissed him back. Drawing back slightly she mated her forehead to his and whispered against his lips, “I love you, Michael.”

“I love you too,” he stated.

Hearing a knock at the bedroom door they both turned and smiled at Isabel. “Sorry for interrupting but we were just wondering if you were okay and also if you wanted us to start tidying up.”

“We’re fine thanks Iz. Before we start clearing up and restoring stuff I want to take a few photographs of the place. I want to have a record of what’s happened just in case.”

“Okay. Are you planning on going to see Liz and having it out with her?”

Maria nodded. “Yeah. I want to hear what she has to say for herself from her own lips so I don’t ever end up making excuses for her.”

“Do you want to go and do it now and get it over with?” Michael asked.

“We might as well. I think once we’ve done it we can start moving on and stop focusing on it. Does that make sense?”

“Totally,” Isabel answered. “When we’ve done that we can all come back and start repairing all the damage here.”

“Wait a second. Are you and the others coming too? I thought maybe just Michael and I should go.”

“Look, I know it seems like we’re all ganging up on her but I think it’s best for us all to go so that if she tries changing her story again as to what’s going on, we can call her on it. When we saw her yesterday she denied everything at first and then when she slipped up and we picked up on it, she said we were all putting words in her mouth. I just think it will be better for me, Max and Kyle to be there to back you up.”

“I agree with Iz, I think they should come with us. Let me just take some photos of the apartment with my old Polaroid camera and we can get going.”

Maria blushed as she remembered the fun they had had not too long ago with his camera. “Do you......uh......is there any film left?”

Michael smirked at her question and at the redness of her cheeks. “Yeah, there should be enough left to take a few pictures of the apartment.”

Isabel looked at Maria and then Michael and she quickly realised what they were talking about. “Ewww you guys, I’m still in the room. I so don’t need to hear about your shenanigans.”

“Shenanigans? Cool word, Iz.”

“Shut up, Michael.” Isabel said smiling at him and then said, “Go and get the camera and take some pictures and I’ll tell Max and Kyle we’ll be leaving soon.”

“Yes mein fuhrer,” Michael muttered under his breath making Maria giggle.

“What was that?”

“What? I didn’t say a word, did I Maria?”

Maria pressed her fingers against her mouth suppressing her laughter and shook her head no.

“You’d better not have,” Isabel said as she turned and left the room.

Michael and Maria burst out laughing and a minute later Michael was rooting around the bottom of his wardrobe looking for his camera. Once he located it he checked the little window on the rear of the camera and saw they had five exposures left on the film. He snapped two in the bedroom and then walking out into the living room he took two photographs in there and then one of the damage in the kitchen. A few moments later all the photographs had developed and the damage sustained to the various rooms of the apartment was clearly visible.

Tucking the photographs into his shirt’s front pocket Michael looked first at Maria and then the others and said, “Let’s go and do this.”

The others all nodded in agreement and taking Maria’s hand in his, Michael led them all out of the apartment.


*********


Liz had just finished serving a customer his food when she happened to glance up and see Michael and Maria just about to come in through the door. She quickly turned and headed towards the door to the break room.

“Liz, where do you think you’re going?” Jeff Parker asked his daughter.

“I’m taking my break,” she told him.

“You’ve just had your break and there are customers waiting to be served.”

“Dad, give me five minutes and I’ll be right back,” she told him as she all but ran out the back.

Jeff noticed Michael and Maria enter the restaurant and smiled at them. “Hi, I wasn’t expecting to see you two yet. Amy called and said something happened that you had to deal with urgently. I hope it wasn’t anything too serious,” he said.

Michael glanced at Maria and she shook her head no. “Uh......well it depends on what you mean by serious. We.......uh......need to have a quick word with Liz, is she around?”

“She’s taking her second break of the morning so she should be out back. Don’t keep her too long because Agnes has disappeared again and I don’t want to leave the cash register unattended.”

Maria smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry, this won’t take long. Once we’ve spoken to her and if you still want me to, I can start my shift.”

“Thanks Maria, you’re a lifesaver.”

“No problem, Mr P.” Maria pulled Michael towards the door and when they entered they saw Liz was standing at the back door surrounded by Max, Isabel and Kyle.

“It looks like Liz here was trying to avoid you by slipping out the rear exit,” Kyle told them. “Good job me and the others decided to come round the back.”

Turning to face Michael and Maria Liz said, “I suppose you two are here to continue what they started last night. If we’re going to do this can we at least go outside so that we don’t disturb any of the customers?”

“Sure, we wouldn’t want your dad finding out exactly what his daughter’s like now would we?” Michael answered, hitting the nail on the head as to why Liz didn’t want to talk inside.

Kyle and Isabel moved away from the door so Liz could go through it and they stood just slightly behind her. Maria and Michael exited and stood in front of Liz and Max was standing off to one side.

“Can I have a little space here..........please?” Liz asked, adding the ‘please’ as an afterthought.

The group all looked at each other and silently they took a step back.

“Oh gee, thanks,” she said sarcastically looking round at them all.

“Why the hell should we do you any favours, huh? What exactly have you done for us lately apart from be a bitch and insult and hurt Maria and trash my apartment?”

“I didn’t insult Maria. What I said was obviously misunderstood by her and........”

“Excuse me? How could I have misunderstood you when you told me that my relationship with Michael would turn out exactly the same as my Mom’s relationship with my Dad? That Michael would end up deserting me and any children we may have. If that wasn’t an insult, then what the hell was it?”

Michael moved closer so he was standing behind Maria and she leaned back against him, grateful for his support.

“I just........I meant that your relationship with Michael has always been.........um.........volatile and........look, I said what I did because I don’t want to see you getting hurt and if you two stay together that’s what will happen. I was being your friend.” Liz took a step closer to Maria and Michael automatically stepped in front of Maria so Liz couldn’t come any closer.

“Don’t you dare come anywhere near her. Maria and I may fight and bitch and we can give as good as each other, but I wouldn’t describe our relationship as being volatile. To me volatile gives an impression of violence and I never have and never will be violent towards her.”

“Michael, Michael........it’s easy to say that but think about the upbringing you’ve had, what you were exposed to at such an impressionable age. Just picture you and Maria having one of your fights and think of how easy it would be to lose control and.....”

Before Michael could let Liz’s hateful words sink in, Maria moved out from behind him so she was now standing in front of him. Placing her hands on his face she lowered his face so he was looking into her eyes and said, “Don’t you dare listen to what she’s just said. You would never ever do that to me or to anyone.” She stood on tiptoes and softly kissed his lips while stroking his cheek with the fingers of one hand.

Maria turned back to face Liz quickly and saw the look of triumph on her face and her anger skyrocketed. “Michael would never hit you or any woman for that matter. I on the other hand have no such problem doing it,” she said before pulling her hand back, forming a fist and punching Liz so hard she lost her balance and went sprawling backwards.

“OWWW! Oh God, my hand hurts like hell but that felt so damn good. Even if I’ve broken my hand it was so worth it,” Maria said as she cradled her painful hand with her good one. Michael gently took her hand in his and concentrating on it, healed it for her before raising it to his lips and planting a gentle kiss in her palm. “Oh, thank you Spaceboy, that feels so much better,” she told him before she hugged and kissed him.

“Thank you, Maria. For defending me,” he whispered against her lips.

“Anytime and I was only saying what I and everyone else here knows is true,” she told him vehemently.

Max couldn’t help staring at Michael. “I didn’t know you could do that. I thought only I could heal.”

Michael shrugged but Maria wouldn’t let him pass it off as nothing. “He didn’t know he could.......well with the exception of when he healed River Dog’s foot that time. We think he can heal small injuries although we don’t know for sure,” she said smiling.

Meanwhile, Liz was crying in pain and seeing that no one was coming to her aid, slowly pulled herself up into a sitting position and brought her hand up to her lip, cautiously touching it. Pulling her fingers away she looked down and saw blood on them. Quickly getting to her feet she started screaming, “Help! Somebody help me! I’ve been attacked.”

A moment later someone stepped out of the CrashDown’s exit and Liz sighed in relief and walked towards him. “Daddy, look what they did to me. Look what Maria did to me.”

Jeff Parker looked at his daughter standing in front of him, her bottom lip split and blood spilling from it and falling down her chin. “What did you expect Liz, huh? You insulted your best friend’s boyfriend by more or less telling him he’ll one day lose control and hit her. How could you say such a horrible thing? And what’s all this rubbish you’ve been saying about her parents?”

“No, Daddy.........I didn’t.......you must have misheard me or something........”

“I was standing right behind the door and could hear every word out of your mouth so no, there’s no way I misheard you. I want you to apologise to both of them right now.”

Liz’s face contorted with the rage she was no longer suppressing and she stared defiantly at her father. “No! They should be apologising to me. They’ve stolen my life. Max and I were supposed to be the perfect couple and the ones to get married first.......not these two.” Turning to face Maria she said, “Without me you were nothing. You were just the kid whose dad ran off and whose mom dumped her on neighbours and friends when she went trawling for guys.”

“Elizabeth Parker, you get to your room right this second before I lose my temper and do something I may end up regretting,” Jeff Parker shouted.

Seeing a look which could only be described as disgust on her father’s face she complied and started to walk towards the back door to the restaurant. Once she had reached the door she turned and screamed, “I hate you! I hate you all!” before running into the building.

Jeff Parker felt embarrassed for the way his only daughter had acted and couldn’t look at any of the faces of the five teenagers standing in front of him. After a few minutes had passed he decided to approach Maria first and quietly said, “I am so sorry, Maria. I can’t.........I don’t know what to say and........”

Maria dropped Michael’s hand for a second and slowly walked towards the older man and placed her hand on his arm. “You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for. I’m just sorry you had to witness Liz saying all those things. I know it’s probably wrong to tell you this but I’m not sorry I hit her and I’ll understand if you want me to stop working here........if it makes things too awkward for you or Mrs Parker.”

Placing his hand over Maria’s which was still resting on his arm and giving it a squeeze he said, “There’s no question of me wanting you to quit the CrashDown unless it’s what you want to do. I just don’t understand why Liz would say all those things to you. She seems so........different.”

“We know,” Michael replied. “She’s been saying all kinds of nasty things to Maria these past couple of days which were really hurtful but like Maria said, we’re sorry you had to see it. It can’t have been easy.”

“It wasn’t but if I hadn’t of heard it from her I probably wouldn’t have believed it. I actually owe your mother an apology, Maria. She mentioned something about Liz’s behaviour when we spoke on the phone this morning and I was very dismissive of what she told me. I’ll give her a call later and apologise.”

“Don’t worry about it Mr Parker. Knowing Mom she won’t have taken any offence at what you said.”

“Thank you. I suppose I’d better get inside and deal with things.”

“Would you still like me to work right now? I’m guessing that Liz won’t be finishing her shift.”

“That would be great, Maria. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to help out too Michael?” Jeff asked hopefully.

Michael glanced at Maria who smiled and nodded her head. “Uh.......sure. Is Jose not working today?”

“No, he’s here but I was thinking you could help Maria with serving the customers and taking a few orders.”

“Uh.....yeah okay, as long as I haven’t got to wear one of the uniforms.”

Jeff chuckled and replied, “No, I don’t think the customers will be too keen on seeing that. I really appreciate this especially after what’s happened.” He told them as he made his way back into the café leaving the group to themselves.

After Mr Parker had gone Kyle said, “I can’t believe you hit her.”

“It was never my intention to hit her but she asked for it with those comments she made about Michael. Are you saying I shouldn’t have done it?”

“No, I’m not saying that Maria but..........I don’t know. It just seems wrong somehow.”

“Well I think she deserved it,” Isabel replied. “I think what she said to you regarding your relationship with Michael and about your parents’ relationship was bad enough but add in those last few comments directed at Michael and she definitely had it coming.”

Michael draped an arm around Maria’s shoulders and said, “I think you all know what I think. What about you Max? You’ve been pretty quiet so far.”

“I......er......I agree that Liz was out of order with everything she said to the both of you but I’m not sure hitting her will have achieved anything.”

“Well it sure as hell made me feel better.” Maria’s arm was wrapped around Michael’s waist and she gave him a squeeze and said, “Come on Spaceboy, I think we’d better get inside and start working. I think Mr Parker’s going to have his hands full for the rest of the day.”

“Okay.” Keeping his arm around her shoulders, Michael started walking the two of them towards the door when Isabel said, “If you two are going to be busy working for the rest of the day, do you want us to head back to the apartment and start putting everything back together?”

Michael gave her a grateful smile and answered, “Yeah, that would be great. Are you sure you haven’t got anything better to do though?”

“Don’t worry about it, Max and I will take care of it. We’ll see you later.”

“Bye guys and thanks........for everything,” Maria said smiling at them before they entered the CrashDown.


*********


A few days later Michael and Maria were hanging out at his apartment, which thanks to Max and Isabel, was pretty much back to the way it was before Liz had trashed it. Michael was laying on the couch, his head resting in Maria’s lap and they were watching a movie when there was a knock on the door.

Groaning at the intrusion Michael got up from the couch and walked over to the door and opened it. He was surprised to see Jeff Parker standing in front of him and said, “Oh hey, Mr Parker. Come in.” Michael took a step back and opened the door wider as the older man entered the apartment.

“I’m sorry to interrupt the two of you but Amy said I could find Maria here,” he explained.

“Hi Mr Parker, please have a seat. What can I do for you?” Maria asked curiously before switching the TV off.

Jeff Parker sat down on the couch and faced Maria. “I wanted to be the one to come and tell you in person about what I’m doing about Liz. I’ve arranged for her to leave Roswell for a while. There’s a boarding school in Vermont that has an excellent reputation and I figured it would benefit her to get away as much as helping you not having to face her after everything that has happened. The school also has a very good counselling service which I’ve enrolled her in. I just.........I think she needs some help.......someone to talk to about what has made her act like this,” he told her. “I just want Liz to be my Lizzie again,” he choked out.

Michael who was standing by the couch went into the kitchen and got a glass of water and handed it to Mr Parker who thanked him.

“I want that too and I think you’re doing the right thing, Mr Parker. Maybe by having some space and someone to talk to it will help her become that person again.”

“I hope so. Oh, I....uh.....I never got to say it before but Nancy and I want to congratulate the two of you on your engagement. We hope you’ll be very happy together.”

“Thanks, Mr P.”

“Thank you. It means a lot that you came to tell me about Liz personally. We really appreciate it,” Maria told him.

Jeff nodded at her and then said, “I’d better be going. I’m flying to Vermont later this afternoon with Liz to get her settled into her new school.”

“Okay,” she said before adding, “Could you........um........tell her I hope everything goes well for her.”

Giving Maria a kiss on the cheek, Jeff stood up and after saying goodbye to the couple he left.

Michael flopped down onto the couch beside Maria and putting an arm around her drew her closer to him so she could lean her head against his shoulder. “I wasn’t expecting him to ship her off to Vermont. Do you think that’s the same school he threatened to send her to before......you know when all that stuff happened with Max after the botched robbery?”

“Yeah, I think it is but he probably didn’t make enquiries into the counselling thing until very recently. I hope they can help her.”

“Yeah but don’t get your hopes up okay. If all this crap about her being the superior person in your friendship goes back as far as it seems to, then I don’t know if a few weeks with a counsellor is going to make that much of a difference.”

“Hmmm, you’re probably right but I can hope. At least now we can start moving forward and not have to worry about bumping into her all the time.”

“Yep, definitely a good thing,” he replied as he slowly lifted one hand and rubbed his thumb back and forth across her bottom lip. “So Maria, do you want to keep watching the movie or do you want to do something else?” He gave her a suggestive wink.

“What do you have in mind if I say no to the movie?”

“Oh I don’t know...........I figured we could go and lie down while we think about it.”

“Good plan! Come on, I’ll race ya!” Maria said before she jumped up from the couch and practically sprinted towards their bedroom with Michael hot on her heels.


*********


Epilogue

Three years later

Michael stood staring straight ahead at the door, his palms were sweating and his throat was dry. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turning his head slightly he saw Max smiling at him.

“Don’t worry she’ll be here,” he reassured him.

Acknowledging Max’s statement with a nod, Michael turned back to stare at the door. His attention was so focused on that door that he was oblivious to all of the people congregated in front of him. While he anxiously waited he couldn’t help thinking how quickly the time had flown since his proposal to Maria. After Liz had left Roswell things had settled down and they had all finished school and graduated. Even him. He had gone to see all of his teachers and with their help and the help of his friends, he had managed to catch up in all his subjects so that he was able to graduate with them. Looking over at Amy he smiled at her as he remembered how she had hugged him after the graduation ceremony and told him how proud she was of him. Apart from Maria, she was the only person ever to say that to him and it meant a hell of a lot.

Later on that evening, after the party she had thrown for them had ended, Amy had sat down with him and Maria and had said that she wanted to help them both in some way. She had explained how she would love to see both of them having the opportunity of attending college, but with Michael working two jobs she didn’t see him being able to spend much time studying. Amy’s solution was for Michael to give up his apartment and move in with her and Maria. This way, she informed them, he wouldn’t have to spend so much money on rent and utilities and could therefore give up one of his jobs. When he and Maria were discussing the offer in private, they realised that some of the money he saved on renting his apartment could go towards their future wedding.

So here they were three years later. Maria had finished her music course at the local community college and was working as a music teacher at the local junior school. Michael had taken an art and design course at the same college and now worked with Amy in her store which she had expanded. As well as continuing to sell the alien merchandise and her aromatherapy products, she showcased Michael’s artwork which was selling nicely and a couple of times a month they took some of his paintings to local art and crafts fairs in and around the New Mexico area and these were generating quite a lot of interest. The shop was doing pretty well and was enabling them to live comfortably.

When Michael had moved in with the Deluca’s they knew Maria’s room was going to be too small for him to share with her so their solution was to clear out the house’s large attic which Amy had been using to store a lot of her old merchandise and turn it into a bedroom. The result was a large, airy room which had more than enough space for the young couple to share. Maria’s old bedroom now had a double use; it was a place Michael used to paint as well as a sort of store room for some of Amy’s stuff.

Michael was suddenly brought out of his reverie when the door ahead of him opened and he saw a flash of white and a moment later his face beamed when Maria came into view. He released the breath he had been holding and took in the beautiful sight in front of him.

Maria was a vision in a simple ivory satin, off-the-shoulder dress which was almost touching the floor and had a short train which was trailing behind her. Her hair had been curled and the top section pinned back loosely. On top of her head she wore a tiara made up of white and pink roses. The bouquet she held in her hands was also made up of white and pink roses.

Behind her stood Isabel who Maria had chosen as her maid of honour. She was wearing a dark, plush pink, silk dress which hit her just past the knee and her hair, which was once again long and blonde, had been brushed straight and was being held back off her face by a headband made up of small pink flowers. In her hands she carried a small posy of flowers matching the colour of Maria’s bouquet.

Standing beside Isabel was Kyle who would be escorting her down the aisle. She had to admit he looked really good in his tuxedo. Kyle caught her staring at him and he gave her a wink and couldn’t stop smiling when blushing, she quickly turned her face away. ‘Hmmm, I wonder what that’s all about,’ he thought to himself.

When the organist began playing the Wedding March, Maria took Jim Valenti’s arm which he held out to her and she glided slowly towards Michael who was standing watching her, a beautiful smile on his face. She smiled back at him and couldn’t help thinking how handsome he looked in his tux. They never took their eyes off each other once and before they knew it Maria was by Michael’s side and her hand was in his. Jim gave Maria a kiss on the cheek and gave Michael a smile before taking his seat next to Amy in the front pew. His smile widened when Amy placed her hand on his and turning his hand over he interlaced their fingers.

Maria turned to Isabel who was now standing just to the left of her and she handed her the bouquet she was holding. They shared a smile before Maria turned back to Michael and took his hand in hers again.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful and when the priest pronounced them man and wife Michael moved closer to Maria and whispered, “I love you Mrs Guerin,” before he pressed his lips to hers and they shared their first kiss as a married couple.

After a few moments had passed and it was clear that neither Michael nor Maria were about to break their kiss, the priest cleared his throat loudly. Maria seemed to suddenly remember where they were and pulled back with a blush colouring her cheeks. Before moving away from Michael though she whispered back, “I love you too, Mr Guerin.”

Michael’s face beamed with happiness and turning to the priest he said quietly, “Sorry about that Father.”

“Don’t worry about it Michael,” he replied chuckling. Turning to the congregation he said, “I present to you Mr and Mrs Guerin.” Loud applause greeted his statement and looking at each other Michael and Maria couldn’t help laughing.

Isabel moved closer to the couple and kissed Maria on the cheek and gave her a hug before doing the same to Michael. “Congratulations, it’s about time you made a honest man of him Maria.”

“Hey,” Michael said jokingly.

After thanking the priest for the ceremony and after Isabel had handed back Maria’s bouquet, Michael took Maria’s hand in his and they walked back down the aisle, smiling at the faces of their friends and family.

“I can’t wait to get you alone, Mr Guerin,” Maria told him quietly.

“Ditto.”

Once outside the happy couple posed for numerous photographs with their family and guests before moving on to their reception which was being held at a hotel about fifteen minutes away. As well as holding the reception there, Michael had booked the honeymoon suite for him and Maria as they weren’t leaving for their honeymoon until the following day and he wanted them to spend their wedding night alone.

After all the speeches had been made, the guests had finished eating and the bride and groom had had their first dance, people were either dancing or helping themselves to food from the buffet. Maria had managed to slip away relatively unnoticed with Isabel and they had gone upstairs to the honeymoon suite where Isabel was helping her change out of her wedding dress. Maria was now wearing a cornflower blue silk dress which had spaghetti straps and hit her an inch or so above her knees. On her feet she wore a pair of matching strappy sandals which had a thin heel and added a couple of inches to her height.

“So Maria, how do you like being married so far?” Isabel teased.

“I’m loving it and I’ll be loving it a whole lot more later if you know what I mean,” she teased back before saying, “Um.....Isabel, I should have said this earlier but in all the excitement I kinda forgot. I just wanted to say thank you for being my maid of honour today. It means so much to me and I don’t want you thinking that it’s only because Liz and I aren’t close anymore that I asked you to do it.”

Walking towards her Isabel gave Maria a hug and said, “I know but I am sorry that things worked out like this........that Liz isn’t here for you too.”

“Yeah well, things change I guess. I guess you can’t blame her for not wanting to come back to Roswell after everything that happened. I’m just glad that she made things up with her dad and is now happily settled down. He told me she’s getting married next year. Anyway, who would have thought though all those years ago when I first learned your secret that you and I would end up being so close?”

“Not me,” she replied laughing. “I was so sure that you would cave and tell Valenti everything he wanted to know when he called you into his office that day but I soon found out how loyal you are to your friends and I’m very glad I was wrong.”

Maria smiled at her. “Thanks. So, shall we go back downstairs and join the party?”

“Yeah we’d better because I’m sure Michael’s going frantic looking for you by now. By the way, do you think he knows about your surprise?”

“No, I think I’ve managed to keep it from him really well. Kyle and Max have been keeping him busy with various things which has given me time to practice with the guys. Do you think he’ll like it?”

“He’ll love it and I can’t wait to see the look on his face. I just wish that Alex was here for this too, you know?”

“I know, me too, but I’ve got a feeling that wherever Alex is he’ll be smiling down on all of us,” Maria answered giving Isabel’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Come on, let’s go and rescue that husband of mine.”

The two women left the hotel room and made their way over to the elevators and while they waited Maria asked, “So have you told him yet?”

“Told who what?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Iz. You know who I’m talking about.”

“No, I don’t think I do,” Isabel replied blushing.

Maria shook her head as she and Isabel stepped into the elevator which had just arrived. Standing in front of Isabel she looked her in the eyes and said, “I’m talking about Kyle and I’m asking if you’ve told him how you feel.”

Isabel looked away from Maria’s gaze and shook her head. “I can’t. I just.........what if he doesn’t feel that way about me? Breaking up with Jesse was so hard and I don’t think I could go through anything like that again,” she admitted.

“I know it was hard Izzy but I promise you, Kyle feels the same way about you as you do about him and I think tonight would be the perfect time to tell him. You don’t have to rush anything with him, you can take it as slow as you like.”

Isabel looked at her friend curiously. “Have you and Kyle been talking about me?”

“Uh.......well, it.......er........depends what you mean by that.”

“You know exactly what I mean.”

“Okay, yes we have but I only wanted to know if he would admit to having feelings for you and he did. He confessed that he developed feelings for you while you were still with Jesse but that he wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize your relationship with him.”

Isabel’s mouth dropped and she stood there stunned. “Oh.....wow. I wasn’t expecting you to say that.”

Just then the elevator bell rang and the doors opened and Isabel and Maria exited and made their way to the room the reception was being held in. Just before they reached the door Isabel asked, “He really has feelings for me?”

Maria smiled at the woman who she now considered her best friend and nodded. “Yep, he does. Don’t panic about this Iz, just ask him to dance when a slow song comes on and once you’re in his arms it might just give you that added push to tell him how you feel. Don’t let what happened with Jesse put a shadow on the rest of your life. He was a nice guy but......”

“But what?”

“I just never felt he was totally right for you,” she confessed quietly.

“Yeah, if I’m being totally honest I felt like that too sometimes,” she admitted. Taking Maria’s hand in hers she said, “Come on then Mrs Guerin, let’s go and surprise your husband?”


*********


“Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?” Maria said as she stood on the stage at the front of the room in front of her husband, their family and all their friends.

The room quieted in anticipation and the butterflies in Maria’s stomach started fluttering and she placed a hand on her stomach in an attempt to settle them. “I recently heard a song which to me summed up the early days of mine and Michael’s relationship and tonight with the help of my best friend’s band, The Whits, who have reformed especially for this occasion, I would love to sing it for you. I’ll admit it’s not my usual type of song but I think the words just seem to fit. I want to dedicate this to the two most important men in my life, my new husband Michael and my best friend Alex who although he may not be here in person, I know is here in spirit.”

Michael looked up at Maria standing on the stage and he looked at her curiously and she smiled down at him and gave him a wink.

Turning to the band she nodded and they started to play an uptempo beat and a moment later Maria started to sing:

That boy is working you
Be careful what you do
They say he's nothing
But trouble with an attitude

Well meaning intervention
My friends with good intentions
Say if you don't walk away,
Girl you must be crazy

They don't see through these eyes
They don't feel with this heart
They don't know what it's like
They're not kissin' your lips
They're not touching like this
I feel the passion and the fire ignite me

I don't care what they say,
I don't care what they do
They could lock me up forever,
Try to stop me loving you
They tried to keep Romeo and Juliet apart
Baby, doesn't matter what they say
I only listen to my heart

I don't care what they do
Nothin's gonna stop me lovin’ you
I don't care what they say
I'm gonna love you anyway

Your body feels so right
Laying by my side
And if the world should end tonight
Baby I'll be satisfied
I know you're a better man
Sorry they don't understand
You make me feel like I,
Like I've never felt before

I don't care what they say,
I don't care what they do
They could lock me up forever,
Try to stop me loving you
They tried to keep Romeo and Juliet apart
Baby, doesn't matter what they say
I only listen to my heart

Nobody can tell me how to feel
Nobody can show me what is real
Words can't change what I know is true
Nothing's gonna stop me lovin’ you

I don't care what they say,
I don't care what they do
They could lock me up forever,
Try to stop me loving you
They tried to keep Romeo and Juliet apart
Baby, doesn't matter what they say
I only listen to my heart


After the song ended there was thunderous applause and Michael got up from his seat and went over to meet Maria who was just stepping down from the stage.

“Did you like it?” She asked him shyly.

In answer, Michael wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. Just as their lips were about to touch he said, “I loved it. Thank you......for the song but especially thank you for marrying me. It took us a good while but we got there in the end didn’t we?”

“Yeah, we did and there’s no need to thank me. Believe me, the pleasure is definitely all mine. I’m so glad you liked the song. I can’t believe how nervous I got up there.”

Wrapping her arms around his neck she pulled him down and they shared a mind-blowing kiss. When they broke apart they turned and saw that all their guests were busy either dancing or chatting with each other and Michael whispered in Maria’s ear, “Do you think we could maybe sneak off for a while?”

“Hmmm, I don’t think we’d make it out of the room without getting caught.”

“That’s what I thought but I found this small room through that door over there. I think it’s a closet or storage room or something.”

“That’ll bring back a few memories of the Eraser Room and storage room at school,” she chuckled.

“Yeah, so are you game?” He asked giving her his trademark smirk.

“Uh huh, I always am where you’re concerned.”

Just as they were about to walk towards the door, Amy and Jim headed over to them. “Maria, your performance was beautiful. I didn’t know you were planning on doing that,” Amy said.

“I didn’t tell anyone except Isabel because I wanted it to be a surprise for everyone. Kyle and Max knew I was doing something because they were under strict orders to keep Michael busy. So, are you two enjoying yourselves?” Maria asked.

Jim nodded. “Yes, we are. It was a beautiful wedding and the reception seems to be going with a swing. Maria, we........that is Amy and I were....um.......hoping to speak to you before we left the party.”

“Okay, what about?” Michael looked at Amy and Jim and couldn’t help noticing they were looking nervous. “What’s going on?”

“Maybe we should be sitting down for this,” Amy said looking at Jim.

“Mom, just say it ‘cos you’re starting to scare me now.”

“Oh no, sweetie. It’s nothing bad.......well we don’t think it is. It’s just that I’m......uh.......I’m pregnant.”

Maria’s mouth dropped open and even Michael looked shocked. They looked at each other and burst out laughing but looking back at Amy and Jim and seeing they weren’t laughing they quickly sobered up.

“You........you’re serious aren’t you?”

“Yes sweetie, I am. I’m six weeks pregnant and while it wasn’t planned this baby is very much wanted.”

Michael stepped closer to Amy and kissed her on the cheek and said, “Congratulations,” before offering his hand to Jim who accepted it and the two men shook hands.

“Thank you Michael. Maria honey?”

“Congratulations Mom, of course congratulations. I’m just surprised I guess. You have to admit it’s a little unexpected.”

“Tell us about it,” Jim joked.

Maria leaned closer and kissed him on the cheek and gave him a hug. “So does this mean you two are going to be getting married too?”

“One step at a time. We haven’t really discussed marriage but we have decided to live together.........at Jim’s place which means.....”

“You’re going to sell our house?” Maria interrupted.

“No, I’m going to sign it over to you two if you want it that is.” Amy told them smiling. “You’re both earning good money and the shop is doing very well so I think it’s something you can definitely afford. I’ll understand though if you would rather I sell it and give you some of the money as a gift to put towards your own place.”

Michael and Maria looked at each other and smiled and Michael answered by saying, “No, we’d love to keep the house. Are you sure about giving it to us though?”

“I’m very sure. Consider it your wedding present from me.”

“By the way, we haven’t told Kyle yet so we’d appreciate it if you could keep this to yourselves for the time being. We were hoping to tell the three of you together but he seems to have disappeared,” Jim said.

Maria nodded and Michael said, “Sure, we’ll keep quiet but damn, I’d love to see the look on his face when you tell him.”

They all laughed at that and after speaking for a few more moments the older couple left to try and find Kyle.

“Bet you weren’t expecting that, sweetie,” Michael said smiling broadly.

“You can say that again, but it’ll be great having a baby brother or sister. I can just see Mom though making us her baby-sitters.”

“Oh well, it’ll be good practice for us,” Michael answered. “Speaking of which, no one’s looking so shall we head for our original destination before we get cornered again?”

“Let’s go,” she said taking Michael’s hand in hers. As they stood outside of the door they had a quick look around the room to make sure no one was watching them and after Michael had turned the door handle and pulled the door open, he and Maria stood there shocked at the sight in front of them.

“Ohmigod Kyle! And Isabel!” Maria exclaimed, clamping a hand across her mouth to stop her bursting out in laughter.

Isabel stood with her back pressed against one of the side walls of the small room by Kyle’s larger frame, the strap of her dress having slipped down one shoulder. Kyle meanwhile had lipstick smudged around his lips and their faces were both flushed.

“What do you two think you’re doing?” Michael asked, trying to sound shocked but failing as he too tried to suppress his laughter.

“We’re doing what it appears you two were about to come in here and do,” Kyle said smirking.

“Well, I think this is great and all I can say is it’s about time. All that sexual tension was starting to drive us all nuts,” Maria said.

“Sexual tension? You’re a fine pair to be talking about sexual tension,” Isabel joked.

“What’s going on here?” Max said as he came up to the group holding the hand of Michelle, a young auburn haired woman he had recently started dating.

“It looks like your sister and Kyle here are getting it on,” Michael said chuckling. “We’ll leave you to it,” he said as he tugged on Maria’s hand and pulled her away from the others. “We’ll catch you all a bit later.”

“See you guys. Have fun........oh and Kyle, your dad and my mom are looking for you. They’ve got some pretty interesting news to tell you,” Maria sing-songed as Michael led her away.

“What news? Maria, what do they want to tell me? Michael?”

The couple waved and smiled as holding hands they managed to dodge their guests and leave the reception room, their honeymoon just about to begin.

The End

*********


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