It had been a week since the group meeting at Michael’s apartment, and things were slowly settling down, except not at the Crashdown. The alien-themed diner was busier than ever. Michael, Liz, and Maria had been working all day.
Liz hadn’t been in the best of moods. She and Max had been hanging out, but it wasn’t the same and she was starting to believe it never could be. And she was letting her frustration vent on everything that had nothing to do with Max, even though that wasn't quite fair. “Michael, I needed the Mars Attacks special for table thirteen about twenty minutes ago.”
“Parker, just get a grip it’s almost ready!”
“It had better be.”
Michael unceremoniously shoved the tray out the pickup window, where Liz stood glaring at him. He had no idea what had her so riled up, but she had been in quite a mood all day long. He couldn’t wait ‘til her shift ended and she could get home and take a bath to cool off. He was stuck with a double shift. But he needed the money and he liked the idea of keeping busy. He didn’t want to think about his issues with Maria.
Liz handed the customer his special, and made her way to the customer lounge, announcing to Maria that she would be on a five-minute break.
“Okay, chica. Don’t worry our shift is about done. Look there’s Alice now.” Maria said as she caught sight of one of the other waitresses. “She’s on now, so let’s head back there together.”
Maria waited until they were alone in the lounge before continuing. “Lizzie, girl, what’s up with you? You’ve been mean to customers, snippy with both Michael and me what’s bothering you? Come on, spill.”
“Maria, it’s just that…well Max and I have been hanging out a lot lately and it’s been driving me crazy.”
“Well, the thing is—“ Liz started, gearing herself up to confess her feelings to her best friend.
“Lizzie, can I speak to you a moment?” Jeff Parker interrupted his daughter and Maria.
“Sure Dad. What’s up?” Liz asked as she followed her Dad into his office while giving Maria an apologetic he’s-my-dad look.
“Agnes will be a no-show, as usual--I really ought to fire her one of these days." He muttered half talking to Liz and half to himself. He cleared his throat and continued, "Anyway, that means Alice will be stuck alone out front with Guerin alone in the back, and while your mother and I would pitch in we were planning to leave this afternoon to an OTR convention in Vegas. And you know how your mother has always wanted to go to Vegas, she's been planning this for a while so I can't tell her we can't leave. I was you'd be able to pitch in and pull a double shift, and help Michael close? I know it's your time off honey, but we could really use your assistance here. Tomorrow shouldn’t be that busy, and you can keep the restaurant closed on Sunday. We’ll be back Monday afternoon. Please help.” Jeff looked into his daughter’s eyes expectantly.
Liz sighed. She would do it. She needed an excuse tonight anyway. She was supposed to go with Max to Las Cruces, to see if Tess had left any more clues. He was trying to piece everything together in order to save his son. And she really didn't want to go. “Of course I’ll help.”
Jeff gave Liz a hug. “Thanks honey. Your mom and I appreciate it.”
Jeff left the office, leaving Liz alone. She walked out to the lounge noticing Maria had already changed into her clothes. “Hey,” she said rolling her eyes. “My dad asked me to pull a double. I’ll talk to you later.”
“That sucks, chica." Maria grimaced sympathetically. "By the way I think Max is out there looking for you.”
“Oh yeah, I was supposed to go help him search for clues at Las Cruces. Maybe you can go help? I’m pretty sure Michael and I will be here late, it looks like everyone in town decided it was a night to eat out.” Liz said
“Oh, detective work! Yeah it sounds like a plan. I don’t want to head home. Mom and Valenti had another date tonight and ugh. If Michael is going to be stuck here he’ll probably be really cranky, and we’ve seen each other all day. Going with Max sounds like a great idea.”
“You don’t have to convince me ‘Ria.”
“Ok, ok. I’ll let you get back to work then.” Maria took off through the double doors, stopping briefly in the kitchen to fill Michael in, and heading over towards Max. Liz watched as she explained the change in plans, and walked out when his face fell. She headed over to where he sat and smiled.
“Hey.” She said softly in greeting. He kissed her gently and pressed their foreheads together.
“Hey. You can’t come?”
“Yeah. No, my Dad needs help, and I promised I’d stay. But call me when you guys get back okay?”
“Sure.” Max stood as he made his promise and gave Liz a quick kiss on the lips before leaving with Maria.
Liz watched them as they got into Max’s new jeep and sped off.
“Hey Parker!” called Michael from across the room.
“What?” she shouted back, knowing she should be more decorous in front of the customers but not caring who heard her.
“Order up. Now will you get to work?” Grumbling she walked over to the pick up window and grabbed the tray Michael had just placed there, it was going to be one long night.
The remainder of the afternoon had been hectic and all-around crazy. None of them had even had a chance to breathe. Liz felt as if she had earned half a year’s worth of college tuition in tips by the time she'd closed out her last table.
She and Michael had been left alone to close, since Alice had needed to leave at ten-thirty. The clock had just struck eleven and the last customer had finally departed. Liz quickly switched the sign on the door from open to closed and turned the key in the lock.
“Not letting anyone else in are you, Parker?” called Michael from the kitchen.
“Not on your life, Guerin!” responded Liz laughingly.
Not having time to think or brood about Max had lightened her mood considerably, and Michael had responded accordingly to the shift in her mood. They were both enjoying the camaraderie of the moment. Michael set to mopping the floor out front, while as Liz cleaned out the soda fountain and wiped the counter down.
“Liz, what was bothering you this morning?” asked Michael tentatively.
Liz sighed and pushed the tendrils of hair that had escaped from her tight ponytail away from her face. “I don’t know Michael…”
“It’s Max, isn’t it? Come on Liz, you can tell me.”
Liz smiled as he echoed Maria’s words to her earlier. She hadn’t had time to talk to Maria. And with Alex gone, she missed being able to gain a guy’s perspective.
“Yeah. It’s just that…well Max and I have been hanging out a lot this past week. And you know we’re taking things real slow and that’s a good thing because I’m sure I’m not ready for Max’s idea of fast. It's like he wants to pretend that things never changed between us. But I feel like I've lived a lifetime since we were last together. Maybe too much has changed? I love him. I'll always love him, but I'm not sure that who we are now belong together. The thing is that sometimes it feels like the past year never happened you know. And we’re back to where we were before Tess ever came to Roswell.”
“But she did.” Michael reminded her gently.
“Exactly. And as much as I’d like to forget this past year I can’t. And when Max touches me, Michael sometimes I want to jerk away. I’m so afraid of seeing something I never intended or wanted to see. I want to rub away his touch because when he touched me all I can think is of her.” Saying all of this out loud, confessing how she really felt was overwhelming. Liz suddenly dropped her head into her arms on the counter and started sobbing.
Michael let go of the mop he was using to prop himself against to hold Liz. He brought her head to rest on his chest and rubbed her back and arms as she let go of the emotions she had been keeping inside. After a while her breathing evened out and the shivers raking her body lessened as the warmth of Michael’s body provided a safe haven.
“I seem to be doing this a lot lately.” Liz said sheepishly as she wiped away the tracks her tears had left against the smooth skin of her cheek.
“It’s okay. I like it that you trust me enough to let me hold you when you cry. I never meant to be the big, scary alien. And no matter what, Liz, we are friends.” He smiled at her reassuringly.
Liz looked up into Michael’s eyes before continuing, “He’s trying to save his son, you know. And the thing about it is that when I think to myself it cannot possibly be true, that Tess had mind-warped us into believing she was pregnant, mind-warped him, all of us into believe a lie," she shook her head.
"But I know it’s foolish to think that way. But when it starts to sink in that it might be real, that Max and Tess are having a child, that a lot of what happened these past few months might all be real, I know it will be impossible to start over and forget. How can I when I’ve barely even forgiven?”
“Liz.” Michael whispered as he held her tightly in his arms. He had no words of comfort to offer her. She was right. Even if Tess was gone it didn't erase everything that happened before she left. Everyone had made a lot of mistakes, especially Max.