parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 are available for your reading pleasure at the links. read on for part 17.
It had been a week since Michael, Isabel, Kyle and Liz had gotten together to watch movies. Maria was still ignoring Michael. Mr. Parker had managed to schedule their hours opposing each other at Maria's request. Michael was unaware of any of this; he still had no idea why Maria was so mad at him. He'd tried calling but she'd hang up as soon as she knew it was him. So he hung out with Liz every moment he could.
Even with Liz's parents back from their convention their schedule hadn't changed much. He still came over every night and they would sit on her balcony talking for hours. She'd bought him a sketchbook, and lately he'd been using it a little. He hadn't shown her any of his work, but he wanted to.
Max and Liz had worked out a system too. By avoiding any mention of Tess and the baby, Max managed to find a way to work with Liz on his pet project. Nothing else had threatened the aliens since Tess's departure, so he had the time to concentrate on finding his son, rather than worrying about everyone else's safety.
Kyle and Isabel were spending an extraordinary amount of time together. Sometimes they'd go to Alex's grave. Kyle was still trying to work through his guilt and grief, as was Isabel. Together they found ways to smile. They had become the group's social planners, coordinating things for them to do all together.
Although usually Maria and Max forbore attending, alienating themselves more and more from the group.
"So what's going on tonight?" Michael asked Kyle.
"Don't know. Isabel called about half-an-hour ago and insisted we meet here. Do you know if Liz and Maria are working?"
Before Michael could answer the objects of Kyle's question made an appearance in the main room. Liz was behind the counter laughing at something a customer said as she walked past him to work the soda fountain. Maria made her way down the aisle to take someone's order all the while studiously avoiding their table.
"Yep. And we're sitting in Maria's section, so expect crap service if I stick around."
"Thanks a lot, Guerin." Kyle groaned. Waving his arms energetically, Kyle managed to attract Liz's attention, and assessing the situation she came over with their usual order of space fries and cherry cokes.
"Hey guys! What's up?" she asked as she approached their table.
"Isabel's orders merely involved showing up here," replied Kyle.
"I'm sure those were hard super hard to follow."
"Yeah, yeah, we all know how much time I love to spend here." Michael responded somewhat sarcastically.
Maria walked by then and Michael held out a hand to stop her. She refused to even glance at him while heading directly to the employee lounge.
Michael got up and followed her before either Liz or Kyle could warn him it was a really bad idea.
"He doesn't know?" Kyle asked.
"Nope. Although I think what she wants is for him to find out and then react badly and prove how much he loves her." Liz shook her head. Maria was playing with fire and it was not going to end well.
"Don't you think I've told her that? Michael doesn't react like normal guys do. She should know better than to play these games."
"Do you think she'll blow it up now?"
"I think it all depends on what is going on in that room. I don't know who I feel worse for Kyle. Maria, whos' hurting, Michael, who's clueless, or Jerry, who has no idea he's being used."
"Why haven't you told him? You could warn him."
Liz sighed and dropped into the seat Michael had vacated. "I know. I've meant to a thousand times. But I feel like it's not my place to tell him. Or God, I just don't think I can break his heart like that. I know things with him and Maria aren't the same, but in his way he loves her and it will really hurt him deeply to discover her betrayal.
"And also, I'm afraid to be the one who tells him because what if he takes it out on me? It's been so good between us lately, I am afraid that telling him will ruin our friendship."
"Yeah. I get it." Kyle nodded. Staring at the backroom, Kyle and Liz remained seated, willing the restaurant to be quiet so that they could overhear what was going on.
If the restaurant had complied this is what they would of heard:
"Michael. Why are you doing this?" "Maria, why are you doing this?" They spoke at once, over one another.
"I'm not doing anything." Maria claimed.
"You're ignoring me. You refuse to speak to me. I call you don't answer. It's been over a week this thing has been going on, and I still don't get it."
"No, you never get it do you, Michael? God. Why should I waste my breath? What have you done but ignore me, shut me out, I've asked again and again for just one thing, and you have always refused it. Michael I refuse okay. I'm fucking sick of it."
"What are you talking about? All I said was I didn't know what I would do if there was a way to leave the planet. Is that a crime? I just told you the truth. That was what you wanted."
"Yes, Michael. And it proved something to me. That I was wasting my time. So leave me alone spaceboy. I just want my fucking space."
Maria didn't even realize how badly she was crushing Michael. She slammed out the doors and went back to waiting tables as if the whole scene hadn't even happened. She said he wasn'y worth her time. Was he worth anyone's?
Liz ran into the lounge in time to see Michaels tears. "Michael?" Liz asked tentatively.
Michael wiped his face and made a move towards the back door, but Liz stopped him with a gentle touch on his elbow. Without words he pulled her into his arms and held on as if it were a lifeline. His grasp was cutting her breathing, but Liz neither asked him to loosen his grip or pushed him away, instead holding him closer. Instinctively knowing he needed her.
When he relaxed a little, and Liz was able to breathe normally, she asked, "What happened?"
"She said I wasn't worth her time. Liz, I've spent the last year trying to be the perfect boyfriend. I know I've failed time and time again. But I dont know what she expects of me."
"Oh Michael. I wish. Listen to me. It's not worth your time to keep trying to change. She doesn't know what she wants. This is on her. Now, go out there, and sit with Kyle and talk about cars or movie stars or whatever it is you guys talk about. I'll be done in about half-an-hour; I'm not closing tonight. And as soon as Isabel and maybe Max, get here we're going to have a good time."
"God I hope so, Liz.: Michael pasted a smirk on his face and walked down to the booth were Kyle was making a saltshaker tower. Hanging out with Valenti lately wasnt as bad as he thought it would ve. And Liz was right it was taking his mind off Maria.
The boys spent the next hour goofing off, laughing as they came up withridiculous plans and talking over all the latest sports games, giving each other crap when they realized they rooted for rival teams. Isabel was surprised to see them getting along so well as she walked into the diner. Greeting Liz in passing she sat down as Max trailed in behind her.
"Hey guys, what's up?:
Looking at each other in agreement, they were quick to respond "Nothing."