Thursday, July 7, 2016

something from the archives: accidents happen - part 5

i ended up re-writing a lot of this part, re-reading this section it just didn't feel like things were happening naturally. hopefully it's better it now. though obviously still ridiculous. parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 can be caught up with at the links.





Part 5

It had been two weeks since the accident and Michael wondered if he'd been too hasty in rushing back to work and school. He'd been so bored sitting in his apartment all day, he had been so sick of feeling like a prisoner that he'd helped his healing along and gotten rid of the cast. If the doctors were amazed at his fast recovery he wasn't sure, but he didn't stick around the hospital to find out either. Instead he’d had to pull a double shift at the Crashdown before heading to Meta-Chem for an all-nighter, and then he had to go back to school. Lucky for him during his two week convalescence Liz had made sure he hadn’t fallen behind on any of his work, and for the first time in his life he had better than average grades.

Now he was back at the Crashdown flipping burgers for the afternoon crowd.  And even though he'd just started back he’d still finagled a night off at Meta-Chem. Actually it had been pretty easy to convince Monk to take his shift, especially when he’d told him it was because he was cooking a special dinner for Liz tonight. He wanted to thank her for everything she had done for him while he was recovering. He felt that he needed to show her how much her friendship meant to him.

He’d even taken care of clearing things with Mr. Parker beforehand. He had permission to use the Crashdown kitchen and set up things on Liz’s balcony. Mrs. Parker had even pitched in to help him, taking Liz on a supply run to Santa Fe.

Michael was glad he would be able to surprise Liz, but he missed not having her close to him while he worked. She always had something to say when she’d walk by the pick-up window, either some joke about a customer or something sassy to rile him. Their banter really made the tedium of the job bearable.

He put together the burgers and matched the plates to the tabs. Rang the bell and set to work preparing the next batch. Maria swung by the counter and picked her orders up. Michael didn’t look up. Maria said nothing to him.

It didn’t hurt so much anymore.

It was almost as if they had never happened. Her presence at the Crashdown, her lack of presence in his life, had less effect on him than Liz’s absence today.

This was a dangerous path to start thinking on. In his head he could hear Monk and Fly mocking him. Oh man, Fly, he’s got it bad…….! No shit Monk, he loves the brunette…he’s going to kiss her. A romantic dinner…he’s pulling out all the stops…So bad…it’s pathetic. They were right. He was being pathetic. He shouldn’t be letting their misguided idiotic ideas influence his thinking about Liz. He just enjoyed spending time with her. She was a good friend.

Dinner tonight was just going to be dinner. No romance. That was his story and he was sticking to it.

*****

Michael surveyed his handiwork. Decorating wasn't his strong suit. But his surprise for Liz looked good even if he did say so himself.

He’d set up a table in the center of her balcony. He’d borrowed his ideas from a catalogue Isabel had left lying around his apartment. Isabel always said it was about keeping a theme. So he’d found Japanese paper lanterns and strung them across the wooden frame he’d made with a screen on which he’d painted the Japanese characters for love, intelligence, loyalty, and passion, the characteristics he appreciated most about Liz. He’d also taken a plain white china set and had painted the same characters on the plates and bowls.

And he was going to make a traditional Japanese dinner. Well, maybe more traditional Asian-American, but at least he was sure Liz would like it and they wouldn't be risking food poisoning by any attempts at homemade sushi.

Everything would be perfect. Everything.

Liz would be home soon.

The smell of cooking food wafted up from the kitchen below him. The food! He’d forgotten he had to make sure the rice didn’t go from steamed to smoked.

He ran down the stairs only to find Mr. Parker standing in the kitchen. “Michael, I didn’t mean you could burn the place down when I said you could cook for Liz,” he said sternly.

Michael felt terrible, “I’m so sorry, Mr. Parker. I just got so engrossed setting up things upstairs that the rice slipped my mind.”

“No worries. Everything is fine. Nancy called and said they’d be about fifteen minutes. You might want to change out of your uniform. I have things covered here.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Michael.”

“Yes?”

“Call me Jeff,” he said with a sardonic smile as he turned back towards the kitchen.

Michael wasn't sure how to react to that. It almost felt like Mr. Parker was treating him like family or something. But he had never been the type of person adults approved of. Why Liz's parents of all people would be so nice to him made no sense. It didn't matter that he'd been nothing but a good employee or a good friend to their daughter, he'd always been that boy from the wrong side of the tracks. To be treated like someone trustworthy was unfamiliar territory.

*****

“Who was that, Mom?” Liz asked as she looked out the window, where they were just passing the sign welcoming them to town.

“Your father. Apparently he forgot we have a dinner tonight with the Johnsons.”

“The Johnsons?”

“You know, Sarah and Kevin’s parents.”

“Oh.” Liz wished she had known her parents would be out for the evening. She would have made other plans if she'd had notice.

“I'm sorry sweetie, you’ll just have to fend for yourself.”

“That’s alright Mom. I think I can manage.” Liz smiled reassuringly at her mother and turned back to the familiar scenery of the route home.

*****

Liz walked up the stairs slowly. Her father had been in such a rush he hadn’t even let her mom out of the car. She wished they’d thought to let her know what their plans were. She really wasn’t in the mood to eat dinner by herself. She wondered if it was too late to call Michael. Though he was probably working at Meta-Chem tonight, making up for the time he'd been out sick.

She walked through the darkened apartment towards her room. She wondered if she’d forgotten to shut off a light, because there seemed to be a soft glow emanating from it.

She walked in and was surprised by what she found there.

Michael sat on the windowsill in a black button-down shirt and khakis.

“Liz?” he asked uncertainly. Her look of shock had made him reconsider his entire plan for the evening. Maybe she had wanted a night to herself with no aliens around to muck things up.

“Oh Michael…” she trailed off. She was overcome with emotion. It was just so unexpected, that he would do something like this, especially for her.

“I wanted to surprise you,” Michael whispered, "I wanted to find some way to thank you for everything you've done. Not just this past month, but everything you've done for us, to protect us. I might not always acknowledge it, but I do appreciate all the sacrifices you've made to keep our secret safe."

Liz didn't know what to say. She felt as if a vise was squeezing her chest.

“Come outside," he smiled, climbing out the window and grabbing her hand to lead her out onto her balcony.

Liz gasped. Michael had set up her balcony to look like a Japanese garden. He’d taken so much care. And it was perfect. Beautiful.

“Oh Michael…” she managed to say before suddenly turning into Michael's chest and bursting into tears.

“It wasn’t supposed to make you cry.” Michael sighed. He'd never understand women. All he'd wanted was to do one nice thing.

"I'm sorry. It's just so..." Liz trailed off. Nice didn't seem to be the right word to use, but what was? "Thoughtful. Thank you for putting this together. It was a wonderful surprise. Did my parents really have dinner plans or did you put them up to it?"

"I did ask for their help, so maybe?"

Liz nodded. "Well, it looks like dinner is served. We should eat before things get cold and all your hard work gets spoiled."

“Absolutely.” Michael said, pulling out a chair for Liz and seating her before seating himself.

Michael served dinner. And they ate and talked and laughed. Afterwards Liz pulled out her stereo and turned on the radio. They were sitting together on her lounge chair, underneath the frame with all the Japanese lanterns. It was peaceful and private, so Liz didn't think anything of the way Michael was holding her in his arms, or the way she leaned into his chest. Being this close felt good. And for once she wanted to feel good and not think about why or whether or not it was right or destined.

“Michael what does that mean?” Liz asked as she pointed at the screens Michael had painted. “Aren’t they the same characters as the ones on the plates?”

“Sherlock Parker’s at it again.”

“Seriously, Michael,” Liz said as she leaned her head back against his shoulder.

“Well the first one there is love, and the one next to it is intelligence, and that one is loyalty, and the last one is passion.”

“Wow. You did all that research or are you making it up?”

“I did the research Parker, I wanted…um well…” Michael’s voice trailed off uncomfortably, and he absently scratched his eyebrow.

“What? Come on…spill.”

“It’s about you. What you mean, who you are, your spirit.”

“Oh Michael…” Liz said for the third time that evening as her brown eyes once again filled with tears.

“No more crying Parker. Let’s dance,” Michael stood and pulled Liz up with him. Taking her in his arms he held her as closely as he dared. He was surprised when she pressed herself closer.

He closed his eyes and let the words of the song flow over them.

I'm finding my way back to sanity again
Though I don't really know what
I'm going to do when I get there
Take a breath and hold on tight
Spin around one more time
And gracefully fall back to the arms of Grace

They spun around in circles, lights, stars, the world dizzying around them.

They were in their own world. The balcony was like their own private planet.

I am hanging on every word you say
And even if you don't want to speak tonight
That's alright, alright with me
'Cause I want nothing more than to sit
Outside heaven's door and listen to you breathing
Is where I want to be

She could hear his heartbeat as she rested her head on his shoulder. She could feel how it raced. Hers was racing in tune with his.

I'm looking past the shadows
Of my mind into the truth and
I'm trying to identify
The voices in my head
God which one's you?
Let me feel one more time
What it feels like to feel
And break these calluses off me
One more time

Her arms wound themselves around his neck.

His arms tightened around her waist and settled in the dip of her lower back. She could feel his lips against her hair.

'Cause I am hanging on every word you say
And even if you don't want to speak tonight
That's alright, alright with me
'Cause I want nothing more than to sit
Outside your door and listen to you breathing
Is where I want to be

He pressed a kiss against the top of her head. She was so precious to him. She didn’t realize just how precious she was.

She lifted her face to his. Her breath whispered across his. She was standing on her tiptoes.

I don't want a thing from you
Bet you're tired of me waiting
For the scraps to fall
Off your table to the ground
I just want to be here now

He stared down into those beautiful warm coffee-colored eyes and felt as if he was falling headlong into something beyond his control.

And then he was pressing his lips against hers. Her lips were soft and pliant beneath his.

'Cause I am hanging on every word you say
And even if you don't want to speak tonight
That's alright, alright with me
'Cause I want nothing more than to sit
Outside heaven's door and listen to you breathing
Is where I want to be

It was wild. It was tender. It was all mouth, lips, tongues, and teeth.

It was hearts and souls.

I am hanging on every word you say
And even if you don't want to speak tonight
That's alright, alright with me
'Cause I want nothing more than to sit
Outside heaven's door and listen to you breathing
Is where I want to be 

Suddenly he pulled away.

“I’ll pick this up tomorrow,” he said pointing at the table and decorations before jumping off the edge of the building.

She stood there. Floored.

What had just happened? And why had it stopped so suddenly?

(n.b. lyrics to Breathing by Lifehouse/Jason Wade)

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