Liz woke to the sensation of fingers running through the silken strands of her hair, the feeling was so relaxing she kept her eyes closed in an effort to avoid the morning. After a while she realized that she wasn’t lying on her soft mattress in her room above the Crashdown, that the pounding she was hearing wasn't someone trying to tear down her door but the sound of someone's heartbeat.
She knew that it was Michael who held her in his arms. And she felt so guilty for feeling tingly about it. She didn’t want to open her eyes for fear he would stop running his fingers through her hair, that he would stop holding her so closely as if she were all that mattered in this world. Feeling this way was wrong.
But Max had never held her like this, even that night so long ago when they slept out in the desert. She felt a pang of remembrance. She and Max had been at the happiest point in their relationship back then. And here she was sleeping in the arms of his best friend, of her best friend’s boyfriend, and getting an illicit thrill from it. She wasn't ready to face the world yet. Or her feelings. Examining them would only raise more questions. And she was pretty sure she wouldn't like the answers.
Michael had woken up soon after the sun rose. The fire he had made had died out long ago and the floor seemed harder and more uncomfortable than it did the night before. He watched Liz as she breathed. Deep in sleep she was oblivious to what lay around her. He was surprised at how easy it had been to hold her in his arms all night. Even more surprising was the fact that he didn’t want to let her go. Absently he stroked her soft dark hair, smiling as she snuggled closer to him.
This was wrong. He thought to himself.
But he couldn’t stop. Hugging Liz closer against his lean body, he fell asleep with his hands in her hair.
It was almost noon when they both woke up. Without discussing the events of the morning or the night before they headed back into town. Michael dropped Liz off in front of the Crashdown, breathing a sigh of relief when he realized that her parents were gone for the week so there had been no worries about curfew and the disappearing act.
Neither one of them expected Max and Maria to be waiting, posted like sentries at the door.
“Where were you two?” asked Max demandingly.
“In the desert.” vaguely replied Michael.
“What were you doing there? And what possessed you to stay out all night?” asked Maria quizzically.
“We went for a ride, and then got caught in the rain. We had to spend the night in a cave,” Liz shrugged. "It's not like we planned it. And we didn't mean to keep you guys waiting."
Liz looked down at her wristwatch she glanced up at Michael and grimaced, "We're both on at four, right?"
He nodded casting a wary eye at Max and Maria. They looked pissed. But he really wasn't in the mood to get into what happened last night. There was no reason he and Liz needed to explain themselves and he hated how little time it took being back in town for things to feel crappy.
Grunting out that he had to go take a shower he brushed past Max and Maria and took off on his motorcycle.
Liz gave him a perfunctory wave goodbye and smiled at Max and Maria. "Guys, I need to shower too. I swear when you wake up in a cave you feel like there's a layer of dust covering you."
Max and Maria watched as she ran up the stairs that led to her family's rooms above the Crashdown. It didn't make any sense. Why had neither Michael or Liz expressed any interest in the results of their sleuthing?
Liz and Michael had closing duties again that night. Maria had promised her mother she would stay in, and was stuck hanging out with Kyle, the Sheriff, and her mom for the entire evening. When Liz had checked in with Max he had been on his way to check another lead on his son out. So they were both at loose ends again.
“Guerin…you up for a movie?” Liz asked as she refilled the sugar dispensers, the saltshakers, and the ketchup bottles at the counter.
“How about a rental? I need to veg on my couch and make up for the cave we slept in last night. My back is killing me."
“Sounds good. Your place or mine?”
“Mine’s fine.” Michael said as he shoved the last of the plates into the industrial dishwasher that no restaurant should be without.
“What’re we going to watch?”
“Well you know that the repeat viewing titleholders are Braveheart and The Matrix.”
“Oh boy, are we going to need some help here.”
“Why? We’re almost done.” asked Michael looking perplexed.
“Repeat viewing’s of Dirty Dancing and Sixteen Candles.”
“Ugh. Total chick flicks. Parker, I thought you had better taste!”
“Very funny, Guerin. You know I read about this new release, called Billy Elliot.”
“Not about the boy who wants to be a ballerina?”
“Aah. You know it?”
“Parker, please. I’m begging you. Don’t make me watch that.”
“Actually, I really wanted to see American Beauty again. I only saw it once in the theater and I really liked it. I feel like I need to see it again so that I really get it. Do you mind?”
“I think I can live with that one. So what’s the plan?”
“I’ll take a quick shower while you get the movie, you pick me up and we head to your place. Sounds good?”
“Sure. I can take a shower while you set up the movie and popcorn. I’m done here, so I’ll be back in ten.”
“I’ll be ready.”
Michael threw down the towel he had been using, and left the Crashdown through the back entrance. It was funny how well he and Liz had been getting along. She constantly amazed him at how well she understood him. It was both thrilling and frightening. At least he also surprised her with understanding. That thought comforted him. Because honestly he had no idea what he was doing.
Spending all this time with Michael is not a good idea. Liz lectured herself silently. Waking up that morning she had felt better than she had in a long long time even though her entire body ached. Michael had been wonderful. She only wished he could see it in himself.
She would help him. She decided suddenly. He deserved to know how great he was. And she would be the one to show him.
No thought of Max or Maria entered Liz’s considerations. She was happy to help someone she had begun to think of as her best friend.
No thought of Maria or Max entered Michael’s conscience. He loved spending time with her. He wouldn’t think of things that would force him to make choice that could hurt her. He hoped to God that the moment would never come.
Max and Maria were both wondering. Their significant others had been acting oddly lately. It would bear some watching.