links to parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25 are where you see them. part 26 follows the jump.
Michael’s heart felt as if it were overflowing in that one moment. Liz had somehow made him feel worthy, something he had never really felt applied to him. He didn’t say anything in response. He couldn’t.
He separated from Liz, and picked their clothes off the floor and moved them into the bedroom. He was quiet. Subdued. And Liz was suddenly worried. Had she said the wrong thing? Had she just pushed Michael away forever?
Liz stopped him as he moved around her room tidying things up. She grabbed his head between her hands and looked into his eyes. His beautiful dark brown eyes that shone brightly with emotion.
And then she understood.
She hadn’t said the wrong thing. She’d said the right thing. It’s just that Michael had never heard the right thing before and he didn’t know how to react. So she gave him room. And asked him a question that had been bugging her since he had appeared on her balcony.
“Michael, where did you go? And why do you have bruises all over your body?”
“Nowhere. It’s nothing, they don’t hurt.”
He closed his eyes. Surrendering because he wanted to. Because he knew that he’d never win.
“I went to the trailer park.”
“Where you lived with Hank?”
“I needed to remember where I came from.”
Liz let that go for the moment. She wanted to know about the bruises first. “And so you did what, run into a couple of fists?”
“It wasn’t like that. There was a fight and I just joined in. I got a few really good ones in. you should see the others.”
“Michael. Why did you need to remember?”
Michael shrugged in response. That wasn’t a question he really wanted to answer. He was afraid of what it might bring up.
“Because I went off with Max right? Right?”
Michael looked away, his avoidance of the topic giving Liz her answer.
“Michael Guerin look at me. You are not Max. I know that. And I thank God you aren’t Max. Because the man I love, the man who is absolutely perfect for me, is the flawed, bruised, beautiful man who is standing before me right now. The man who made love to me before with such passion. The man who sees me.”
Liz’s breath was literally taken away by Michael’s response. He captured her mouth in an open-mouthed kiss. And pushed her onto the bed and made wicked love to her. He cherished every inch of her body. He kissed every expanse of skin. He warmed her heart. He healed her soul. He made her explode with passion.
He adored her.
And she adored him.
Afterward, they lay together caught up in the magic of their embrace. Michael was combing out Liz’s hair, fanning it out on the pillow as they talked about their plans. The different ways they could spend time together without alerting the rest of the group.
“So when does Max want us all to meet?”
“Tomorrow, here at the Crashdown. We have to open anyway so it shouldn’t be a hassle.”
“Do I have to act surprised?”
“Can you act surprised?”
“I don’t know. Can I act?”
Liz laughed silently, the idea of Michael acting seemed ludicrous. He was one of the most forthright and honest people she had ever met. “I don’t think so. But if you can’t pull it off, just say I told you.”
“Michael, are you fine with this?”
“Pretending that we’re not together.”
“No. Liz, I want to be with you so much I think it’s stupid to pretend I don’t feel that way. Besides I’m really bad at it. But Maria and Max deserve time to adjust. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing. Just another reason why I love you so much.”
“Yeah. You are the protector. You’d hurt yourself before you’d ever let anyone you care about get hurt.”
“If you say so. Now shut up and kiss me.”
The idea of conversation was abandoned in favor of a more intimate form of discourse. But they enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Pleasure and passion, laughter and love, intimacy and understanding all had found a place in the lover’s hearts. And bed.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny. Liz couldn’t help but smile as she rushed around the Crashdown collecting orders and refilling coffee mugs. She was in love. And was loved in return.
The moments they had spent together that morning had been so wonderful. She felt so cherished she hoped she wasn’t giving everything away in her smile. It had been a long time since she smiled just because, and knowing the reason why she was simling only made it that much harder to stop.
Michael had helped her open up the café as usual, and was in the kitchen with Jose preparing breakfast for the morning rush of customers. He had been sketching when she woke up and had refused to let her see it until he was done. So Liz had retaliated by grabbing her journal and writing without telling him what about.
Thinking that she was writing more stuff about Max had driven Michael crazy, not because he was jealous, but because he was curious. A big step indeed. A tickling fight had ensued although neither of them won. Liz still hadn’t seen what Michael was drawing, and Michael didn’t read the love letter Liz was composing in her journal. But they would. Eventually.
Kyle and Jim Valenti walked in right on time for the special group breakfast Max had organized. The rush would be over soon enough and they could all sit down for a moment before the lunch mess came in. Liz smiled as she reached their table, taking out her notepad to take their order.
“Hi Mr. Vee…Kyle…How’s everything this morning?”
“Good morning Liz. How are your folks? Kyle and me are just fine, ready to hear the specials.”
“They had to go away for a family emergency, so I’m in charge of this place today. Oh today’s special is the 2001 Space Omelet, that comes with your choice of the hash browns or toast, orange juice or coffee. Extra fillings are fifty-nine cents.”
“You’re awful chipper this morning Liz? Anything interesting going on? I’ll have the special, ham, cheese and tomato, hash browns, and OJ. Tell Guerin I like my eggs dry.”
“Sheesh Kyle, can’t a girl be happy? Ok, and you Mr. Vee?” Liz asked as she scribbled down Kyle’s order.
“The same except I’d also like onions and green pepper in my omelet and coffee instead of oj.”
“Alright. I’ll just give this to Michael and your orders will be up shortly. I’ll be right back with your juice and coffee.”
Both men looked at each other quizzically, Liz hadn’t been that friendly to anyone in a while. Kyle thought he might just have to have a heart to heart with his ex-girlfriend. He was pretty sure he knew what was going on.
Liz walked by the pick-up window and dropped off the new orders before heading to the soda fountain, she was relieved to see Maria walking in at that moment. The diner was filled to capacity and she didn’t want to handle all the customers alone.
“Hey Lizzie. How are things here? Ugh. Jim’s here, my mom is sure to come by then. I had a major blow out with her last night. She was just ragging on me about Jerry and Michael and I just told her I didn’t want to hear that name. And she was like did he do anything to you. And I was like no he didn’t that was precisely the problem. And then of course she freaks out because she starts thinking things she shouldn’t but it’s not like I can get a word in—“
“Maria! Hold on a second. Sheesh. Your mom isn’t the only one who doesn’t let anyone get a word in.”
“Oh. How was the science thingy?”
“The desert thing with the science club.”
“Oh. That. Um. It went really well. Listen help me with these tables. Five and eight have their orders coming up and twelve is ready to pay. We want to get them out of here by the time Max and Isabel arrive.”
“Liz. Is there more alien stuff. I don’t want to be a part of it.”
“Maria you already are. Now chill out. And help me please.”
Maria looked at Liz. And giving her a quick hug, said, “Chica, this is what friends are for. Deluca reporting for duty!”
Liz laughed as she returned Maria’s salute. Thankful that she hadn’t given away the fact that she had forgotten her cover story from the day before. She just hoped that keeping track of everything wouldn’t prove too difficult for her and Michael.