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Days of Grace

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Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list March 11, 2001

Title: Days of Grace
Author: Elizabeth
E-mail: uhmidont@yahoo.com
Summary: The beginning is the end is the beginning.
Spoilers: Everything, but VLV and ARCC especially
Category: Slash
Disclaimer: It's not my fault they make the show so darned slash-able.
Rating: R
Distribution: My site, Doug's sites if he wants it. Anyone else, please ask.
Dedication: To the SmFic'ers. It's not quite what was asked for but....
March 2, 2001



To start their journey as they disembark, but then to take them back where they have traveled from, is to produce a version of eternity

--Jim Crace, "Being Dead"

**

Las Vegas
7:45 AM
Tuesday

        "Forget it. I probably said too much. "

        A pause then, because Michael can't think of anything else to say. Hasn't he said it all already? His head feels dull and heavy; the bright light of the morning desert sky hurts his eyes.

        Max still isn't talking and Michael fiddles with his cup of coffee. I'm offering you a way out, Maxwell, he thinks. Take it, damn you. Just say something--anything--so we can move on.

        Finally Max does speak and Michael grits his teeth because it's typical Max-talk, all stammers and pauses and....

        and...

        "Without you...I'd...I'd really be lost, Michael."

        It's confession, absolution, understanding....no, it's not, and Michael knows that.

        But it's *something.*

        It's enough.

**

Las Vegas
11:45 PM
Monday

        The club's bathroom is tiny, dingy, and smells like bleach. The tiles are cracked and the lights flicker every fifteen seconds. He's timed that. The bathroom's sharp smell makes the inside of his nose sting and his eyes water. He takes his time anyway, reading the newspaper tacked up above the urinals, just standing there because to go back out into the club--that's something he's not ready for.

        A draft of air pushes against his back as the door opens and he knows who it is. He knows and he feels the familiar mixture of anger and hope that marks every interchange he's had with Max over the past few weeks. He turns around anyway, shoves his hands into the pockets of the pants Maria bought for him just a few hours ago. "Maxwell." Max looks startled, like he always does. His eyes go wide, just briefly, and then his gaze drops to the floor.

        Michael cannot understand what Max sees in Liz. Maria at least gives as good as she gets, pushing him back just as hard as he pushes her. Liz just...is. He always wants to grab her and shake her, to see if that would propel her into action. He has a feeling that she would just close her eyes and let him move her.

        He didn't always hate her and sometimes he feels guilty for how he feels. There have been times where he's felt sorry for her; there have been times when he's actually almost liked her. But now--now--"Well," he says. "so much for the big talk about leaving. Figures. Did Maria send you in here?"

        Max looks up then, meets his gaze, and Michael immediately moves his own to the wall beside Max's head. Liz stands around, enduring. He runs away, avoiding. No wonder he hates her so much. "No," Max finally says. "I just wanted to make sure--I mean--are you?"

        "Damn Maxwell, that was almost a whole sentence. Maybe next time, if you try real hard, you'll be able to do it. You know what? If you came in here to preach some more, I don't want to hear it. I got enough of a lecture earlier."

        "Michael--"

        He cuts off whatever Max is going to say with a wave of his hands. "Just forget it." He walks forward, bumping Max with his shoulder. Hard, but not as hard as he could. Not as hard as he wants to.

        And Max turns, absorbing the blow, and his face is level with Michael's. It stops him; those dark earnest eyes, the slightest hint of pain in them. "What is it, Michael?" Max says. "I know this is about more than the money or Laurie."

        "You said that earlier. Don't you remember what you said earlier? Or has making up with Liz turned your brain to mush?"

        Silence is Max's weapon and he uses it now. Michael nudges his shoulder into Max a little harder, pushing him back towards the wall. "Well?"

        Still no reply and Michael reaches out one hand, folds it into a fist. It's always his first response to anything upsetting. A lifetime with Hank has yet to be unlearned and he's not sure it ever will be. He slides his fist up, brushing it across the corner of Max's face, tracing along the edge of his cheek to a point beside his eye--and Max still doesn't say anything.

        He doesn't need to speak because Michael can see everything. It's those eyes again. He can see that Max knows exactly what Michael meant earlier. He can see that Max remembers exactly what he was talking about. He just won't say the words. So Michael kisses him, a brutal kiss, pressing his mouth so hard against Max's that he can feel the press of Max's front teeth against the flesh of mouth, against his lips.

        The lights flicker overhead once more, their fifteen seconds come round, and Max's mouth opens under his. Michael blinks, startled, and the lights flash again, popping into darkness and then back out. Max brushes his lips against Michael's, rubbing softly once, then twice, and Michael opens his own mouth, Max's breath rushing into him.

        He's kissed three people in his life. He knew what he was doing with Courtney and Maria because he didn't care, not really, not at first. It was easy to kiss them because he didn't think it meant anything. And then later, when it did, he was used to their mouths, and it still didn't mean as much as he wanted it to.

        But Max's kisses--he fumbles. His teeth catch on Max's, he forgets to breathe, he gets--he gets Max's tongue sliding into his mouth, he gets the taste of Max's mouth, hot and moist. The lights flicker again, the darkness behind his closed eyes deepening for a moment. Max's hand on his face, a feather light touch, and Michael leans into it. Then it's gone. The touch, Max's mouth, and Michael opens his eyes.

        "Michael." That's all Max says. It's a question, really and Michael knows it's one he'll answer.

        "You're right. It's not about the money or Laurie. It's jus that--" he looks down at the tiles, then back up at Max. Three people in his life he's kissed and this is the one that he can't forget. He always knew god had a sense of humor. Max, of all people. But that's the way it is. "Maybe---maybe I wanted to go back. To that night, to you and me and...."

        Max's inhales, a sharp sound, and Michael looks at his mouth. Max's mouth is still damp, and Michael can tell that if he leaned forward Max wouldn't push him away. He'd simply close his eyes and open his mouth again and Michael could slide his tongue inside, taste the warm damp metallic flavor of Max's mouth. He could lean forward; push Max against the tiled wall and the flickering lights wouldn't matter at all. He wouldn't notice them anymore. Five minutes, ten minutes, maybe even till someone comes into the bathroom, mutters something, and then leaves--that's what he could have.

        He leaves instead. He leaves because he wants more. He wants acknowledgement. He wants to know that he matters. And Max stares after him--

        but doesn't say anything.

**

Las Vegas
8:42 PM
Monday

        Max is mad. He's lecturing and pacing and spouting crap that Michael can't believe he's listening to. This is what their trip to Vegas has been reduced to? This?

        He's so sick of Max and his god complex. He's so sick of Max and his pretending. He's so sick of Max talking and not saying anything.

        "You don't know the first thing about what it would take to heal me -- to really heal me inside where it counts."

        Silence then, and Max looks stricken. But he still doesn't speak and Michael gives up, retreats. He sits in the corner, stares at the floor, furious and embarrassed and hurt all at once. He waits anyway, giving Max another chance and another one and another one after that, counting off the minutes as they march by. Max still doesn't say a word.

        Finally, Max does speak. When it's too late, when they can both hear Maria's voice wafting down the hallway, when they both stand up, waiting for release; that's when he decides to say something. "This isn't about what happened with Laurie."

        Michael shakes his head. Too late Maxwell, he thinks. Too fucking late.

        Max grabs his shoulder. "Michael."

        He pulls away and shrugs his shoulders forward, making sure he's out of reach. The conversation is over as far as he's concerned.

        But Max always has to have the last word. Always. "This is about Las Cruces, isn't it?"

        Not this time, Michael tells himself. Not this time. This time I get the last word.

        "Yeah, maybe it is." And he gets to watch Max's face, gets to watch those words sink in.

        The expression he sees isn't nearly as satisfying as he thought it would be.

**

Exit 116 off I-10 E
Las Cruces, New Mexico
4:38 AM
December

        A kiss in the dark. Max's hand on his shoulder and it's just a simple movement, really, to roll in a little closer, press his mouth against Max's. Maybe Max thought Michael was going to tell him something or ask him something. Maybe Max knew what Michael was going to do. Maybe he knew what was going to happen before Michael did. Sometimes he thinks Max knows him better than he knows himself. Maybe Max did know because there's no start, no sudden twitch of his body, when Michael's mouth touches his. There's just sleepy welcome, Max's mouth opening under his.

        Michael has been around Max in the morning, has smelled his sleepy scent as he emerges from his sheet and comforter. He spent years sleeping on Max's floor after all, a refugee from Hank's world. He associates Max's morning smell with welcome, with a sleepy greeting of hello, with the brush of Max's arm against his own and a whispered "My mom's coming. You'd better get up." All comforting and that's what Max is now. Comforting.

        But more, because it was never quite like this before. Max's mouth moves against his, his lips capturing Michael's lower lip and tugging gently, and Michael feels his entire body tremble in response. The feeling would terrify him with anyone else--to show that much weakness--but with Max he knows it's ok. Max will understand. Their bodies brush against each other hesitantly, chests and hips meeting and then sliding away only to return again. It's good. It's better than good.

        They kiss until Michael has to pull away, gasp for air, inhaling and opening and closing his eyes quickly, spots dancing across his vision. Then they kiss again, Max's hand cradling the back of his head, gently, securely. Their bodies aren't so hesitant anymore and their hips rub together, firm pressure that makes Michael's erection quiver and throb and makes Max moan deep in his throat.

        The sounds Max makes send goosebumps racing across Michael's skin. He rolls, pressing Max down into the bed and reaches between their bodies, cupping his hand against the front of Max's pants. Max's mouth pulls away from his and he hisses, his body arching upward into Michael's. "Oh," Max says, his voice low and urgent. "Oh."

        Michael presses his hand down harder, his fingers fumbling with Max's zipper. Under him, Max's body twitches, his hips pushing upwards and the rest of his body following suit. "Oh," he says again on a sigh.

        Michael stills his hand. He's breathing hard and his arms are shaking. "Max?"

        Max's eyes open and even in the dark Michael can see that Max's expression is unfocused, dazed. Then Max, blinks, his eyes sweeping closed for a moment. He opens them again and Michael can't read the expression in them. It worries him. He wants to know what Max is thinking.

        Max reaches up then, his hands warm against Michael's neck, gentle pressure urging him downward, onto his elbows, Max's hands running across his chest, his stomach, between his legs. Max's mouth meeting his own and Michael forgets what he was worried about.

**

Exit 116 off I-10 E
Las Cruces, New Mexico
2:42 AM
December

        517 miles from Phoenix, Arizona to Roswell, New Mexico. Too far to drive there and back in one night, especially when only one person is driving.

        Michael peers over at Max, who is slumped against the passenger side door. "Max?"

        No reply, and the jeep hits a bump in the road. Max's head lolls forward and then to the side, hitting the door with a resounding smack. Max opens his eyes, briefly, and then closes them again. "Ow."

        "Shit," Michael mutters. "Max? Max?---Max, we gotta stop. I can't drive anymore. Not tonight. Max?"

        "But--Sydney and--and.."

        "She's fine, Max. Remember? I drove us all the way to Phoenix, you did the laying on of the hands thing. You almost got us all exposed? You remember that, right?"

        Max sighs and Michael looks over at him. "I knew you were angry." Max says, his words slurring together. "I knew it."

        "Yeah, no shit." Another bump and Michael looks away, looks back at the road. They've hit another mile marker. "We've got to stop...you got any money?"

        It turns out that Max does have money--three twenties, neatly folded and hidden behind his driver's license. Michael smiles when he sees the bills, all perfect tiny little squares, in Max's wallet. It's so typically Max, to do something like that. He pays for the room and goes back to the jeep. Max is still leaning against the passenger door, his head tilted back at an awkward angle.

        "I got us a room."

        Max nods, slides out of the jeep, wobbling a little on his feet, and they both manage to stagger inside.

        The room is tiny and cold but Michael turns the heat on and places his hand against the unit for a moment, closing his eyes and trying to get the sluggish heat pump to work a little faster. It doesn't blow up and he figures that's something.

        Max is lying on the bed. Even in sleep, he's neat, head resting in the middle of a pillow, legs extending out straight, his toes pointing downward. Michael thinks about unlacing Max's sneakers but then decides against it. He's not Max's mother and driving close to 800 miles in one day is way above and beyond the call of duty as far as he's concerned.

        He looks over at the room's lone chair. It's wooden and square and when he sits down in it, the back of the chair hits him right in the middle of his spine, pressing into his back, just enough to let him know that if he falls asleep, he'll wake up in a lot of pain. He looks over at Max again, then gets up and walks over to the bed. He stares at it for a moment and then goes back to the chair. He sits down again and closes his eyes. His back starts to hurt right away and he mutters curses under his breath till he falls asleep.

        He wakes up what feels like a million hours later--his arms have both fallen asleep, draped over the arms of the chair, and his back is killing him--but a look at the clock shows him it's only 4:30. He rubs a hand over his eyes and bends forwards, resting his head on his knees. His back makes a popping noise.

        "Michael?"

        "Yeah?"

        "Where are we?"

        "Las Cruces."

        "Did you just make that popping noise?"

        "What? Did that wake you? Gee Max, sorry. I guess sleeping in a chair after driving for 16 hours wasn't very considerate of me. I mean, god knows you need your sleep."

        "Michael..."

        He sighs and sits up. His back pops again and he winces, wishes he had Max's ability to heal. "Go back to sleep, Max."

        "I can sleep in the chair for a while."

        He looks over at Max and sees the glint of Max's gaze as it meets his own. He looks away, focusing on the pale glint of the sky he can see through the hotel curtains. "You need to rest."

        "Then at least take the other half of the bed." A pause, and when Max speaks again, his voice is wry. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone that the mighty Michael Guerin has a bad back."

        "Very funny, Maxwell." He gets up and lies down on the bed. The mattress is too soft and the bedspread is slick, smells like smoke, but it's still a million times better than the chair. He dares a glance over at Max. Still lying with his head in the center of his pillow. Michael lifts his head up a little. He can see Max's legs and feet, still arrow-straight. He smiles and puts his head down. His back cracks in protest again.

        "Michael--I know that I took a risk tonight but I had to do it. I had to restore the balance."

        "Whatever, Maxwell."

        "But--I--"

        "It's alright. Just shut up and go to sleep, ok?"

        "Thanks, Michael."

        "Whatever."

        A rustle, and then Max's hand rests against his shoulder. "I mean it. Michael--I'd be lost without you."

        END

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