Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: No one should be alone on Christmas.
Category: After Hours
Authors Note: Distribution: Just ask, I'll say yes cause I'm easy. Dedication: Okay, Melissa wanted a sappy holiday story. Miri wanted smut. So here's a little of both. This is for you, girls! Merry Christmas! Thanks: To Melissa for her challenge that got me thinking about this. To Miri for letting me bug her about this story *all day*. To Court for beta services rendered. And again to Mel for the title. Oh, and to bec for writing The Present, which was a great smut-free holiday story that got my dirty mind working. Thanks ladies!!!! Hope you enjoy the final product!
"Maria, are you sure you don't want to stay? My parents said it was cool, really," Liz Parker said to her best friend as they stood at the front door of the Crashdown Café. It was Christmas Eve and Liz hated the thought of her friend being alone.
"I'm sure, Lizzie. I just want to go home and get some rest. Besides, my mom should be able to get back by tomorrow evening. It'll be fine," Maria said. She hoped that Liz would just let it drop. As much as she dreaded the prospect of spending the holiday alone while her mother was snowed in at the Denver airport, she would have hated it even more if she'd had to stay here with Liz and her family. She didn't belong there and it would only make her feel worse.
"You better promise me that you'll come back and eat with us tomorrow night," Liz said finally. "Even when your mom gets home, you guys both come. My mom said to tell you that she insists on it."
Maria smiled at her best friend. Sometimes she wondered what she would do without Liz. "Okay, I promise," she said and gave Liz a hug. "Thank you for listening to me mope all night. I know it wasn't your idea of fun on Christmas Eve," she said with a sad grin.
"It's not a problem. Any time you need me you know that I'm here for you," Liz said.
"Thanks, Lizzie," she smiled again.
"Okay, well, be safe. Call me when you get home," Liz instructed.
"I will. Merry Christmas, Liz," Maria said as she turned to leave.
"Merry Christmas, Maria," Liz called back and stood at the door as she watched her best friend get into her car and drive away. She hated the thought of Maria spending this night alone but she knew that Maria wouldn't stay there with her family. She understood, but she still hated it.
Liz sighed and pulled the door to the Crashdown closed, then turned the deadbolt and headed back upstairs. There was one more person she wanted to wish a Merry Christmas before she went to sleep and she wanted to call him before he turned in for the night.
As she sat on her bed, Liz dialed the familiar number and waited for an answer. It rang twice, and then she heard the voice she had hoped would answer.
Liz smiled. "Hi Max."
"Liz, hey," he said. She could hear the smile in his voice as well.
"Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas," she said.
"Yeah, same to you," he replied. Liz was silent and Max could tell right away that something was wrong. "Liz, what is it?"
"It's . . . it's nothing, really," she told him.
"Liz . . ." he said.
"Well, it's just . . . it's Maria," she finally said.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Well, she's just upset is all and I'm a little worried about her. Her mom has been in Denver all week at a convention and she was due back this afternoon, but her plane got snowed in and they don't think they'll be any flights out till at least tomorrow afternoon. Her mom is the only family that Maria has in Roswell. She's going to be alone for Christmas and I just hate that."
"I see . . . well, she can't stay with a friend?" her asked.
"I invited her to stay with us but . . . I guess she felt weird about it, it being Christmas and all. She wouldn't be intruding, but I can understand why she feels like she would."
"Yeah," Max said. "Michael always feels the same way. We try to get him to spend Christmas with us every year, but he never will."
"I don't suppose Hank has much Christmas spirit," Liz replied ruefully.
"No, he definitely does not," Max agreed.
"So, where does Michael go?"
"I'm not really sure," Max said. "He usually stops by here, then we don't see him till the day after Christmas. I think he goes out to the desert though, to the caves. He feels closer to home there, I think."
"Have you seen him tonight?"
"Nope, not yet," Max told her.
"Well, I hate that both of our best friends are going to be alone on Christmas. It's just so sad," Liz said.
"Yeah, it really is."
"So, my mom wanted me to tell you to invite your family for dinner tomorrow night. She's cooking a huge meal. Maria agreed to come. You should invite Michael, too."
"I'll mention it to him when he stops by," Max said. "And I'm sure me, Is, Mom and Dad will be there."
"Great, see you then," Liz said.
"Merry Christmas," he said to her.
"Merry Christmas, Max."
As she hung up the phone, Liz was smiling sadly. She was happy, but it made her feel guilty because things seemed to be going so well for her. She wished that Maria could be as happy. With another sigh, Liz put the phone back on her dresser and crawled into her bed, hoping that Christmas morning would bring better things for everyone that she loved.
Max heard the knock on his window and smiled to himself. As he walked over, there was no doubt in his mind who his visitor was.
"Hey, I was beginning to wonder when you'd show up," Max said to his friend as he climbed over the windowsill.
"Wouldn't be Christmas without a visit from your favorite of Santa's little helpers, now would it?" Michael replied without a smile.
"How's it going?" Max asked as he sat back on his bed. It was after 11 o'clock but he'd been waiting up because he knew that Michael would stop by sooner or later.
"Just great," Michael said. "I even got to see Santa on my way over."
"Some guy in my neighborhood was passed out drunk on the curb in a Santa suit. You gotta love the holiday season."
"Michael why don't you sleep here tonight?" Max asked. He hoped that if he just made it sound like a casual suggestion that maybe his friend would agree. But, he wasn't surprised with Michael's answer.
"Thanks Maxwell, but I have other plans."
"My own little Christmas traditions," he replied. "Don't worry, I'll be fine."
Max sighed. There was obviously going to be no convincing him. "Well, Liz wants you to come over to the Crashdown tomorrow. Her mom is making a big dinner. Everyone is going to be there."
"Tell her thanks, but I don't think I'll be around," Michael replied.
"Max, this is what I want to do, okay? Christmas isn't any big deal to me anyway."
"I bet Maria would like you to be there," Max said.
"What does Maria have to do with this?"
"Well, she's alone this year according to Liz."
"What about her mom?" Michael asked.
"She's stuck out of town till tomorrow night. Liz tried to get her to stay with her, but apparently she's as stubborn as you." This drew a little smirk from Michael but he didn't say anything. "Anyway, she'd probably like it if all of her friends were around at dinner tomorrow." He knew that was low, using his feelings for Maria to get Michael to join them, but the thought of him out there in the desert alone was just so depressing.
"I'll think about it, okay Max?"
"Alright, fair enough," Max replied.
"Well, look, I gotta go," he said as he turned back to the window.
"You're sure you don't wanna stay? Just to sleep?"
"Nah, I gotta go," Michael said again.
"Okay, well, Merry Christmas," Max said to his best friend as Michael crawled back out the open window. "Yeah, later Max," he said, then turned to go. Max watched after him, wondering if Michael would show up for dinner the next day. For the first time in a lot of years, Max felt like he just might.
It wasn't a big deal.
It was just another day.
There was nothing to cry about.
Maria repeated the words over and over in her head like a mantra, but it didn't seem to be doing much good. She'd been sitting here in her room for two hours. The whole apartment was dark and quiet, yet she couldn't sleep. All she seemed to be able to do was cry.
'You're being the world's biggest baby,' she thought. 'It's not like mom *meant* to not be here for Christmas. And it's not like you've never spent the night alone before. You'll be fine. Just stop sniveling and go to sleep already.'
The pep talk didn't seem to be working. She just kept on crying.
Maria really wasn't very dependent on her mother. It had always been the other way around as a matter of fact. Amy DeLuca was a sweet woman, but she was kind of flighty to say the least. Maria had always ended up doing most of the mothering. She was the responsible one. Still, not being with her mom on Christmas Eve just didn't seem right. And being all alone just made it worse. It just made Maria realize how alone she was in general.
Even Michael hadn't wanted her. That thought brought forth more tears and she just stopped fighting them. If only he had wanted what she wanted . . . maybe . . .
But that was stupid. Michael hadn't wanted to be with her. He'd just wanted someone to make out with. She had gotten too serious about the whole thing and driven him away. Not for the first time Maria wished that she could have just let what they had mean nothing. At least then she might not have had to feel so alone tonight.
She sniffled and lay down on her yellow bedspread. Curling up in a tight little ball, she let herself cry. Everything else seemed so hard, but it was easy to surrender to her tears.
Michael walked past the familiar apartment a second time. "What the hell am I doing here?" he muttered to himself. He'd set out from the Evans' house with the intent of heading out to the desert. That was what he always did on Christmas. But, somehow, he'd ended up here instead.
Looking over at the apartment of Maria and Amy DeLuca, he sighed to himself. He knew he should just leave. It was better for the both of them if he just left. Still, he needed to be sure she was okay. He'd just look in her window and make sure that she was alright. As soon as he saw that she was, then he could leave.
'She's fine, just turn around and go,' he said to himself. He was about to do just that when he heard a noise from inside. His ears perked up and he listened intently, wondering if that sound was what he thought it was. When he heard it again, he was sure. It was a sob. She was crying. Maria, his Maria, was lying in bed all alone on Christmas Eve, crying herself to sleep. It was more than he could take.
Without thinking, Michael tried the window. It was locked. Using the powers that he normally had no control over, he easily unlocked the window and slid it up. He was inside her bedroom by the time Maria had a chance to turn around and see what was going on.
"Wh--Michael?" she asked in confusion.
"Hey," he replied sheepishly.
His presence seemed to take a moment to sink in, but as soon as she realized that he was really there Maria sat up in bed. Wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her sweater, she said, "I, um . . . I didn't think anyone . . . I mean, I figured . . . well . . ."
"It's okay, Maria," he assured her.
"I'm just . . . what are you doing here anyway, Michael?" she asked. She hadn't meant to sound so snappish, but her surprise at seeing him and her embarrassment at being found in this state had made her a bit defensive. Michael didn't seem to mind.
"Max told me that Liz told him that your mom was stuck out of town. I just figured, I mean, I knew you'd be alone and I just wanted to check--"
"I'm fine. I don't need you checking up on me," she said quickly.
"I didn't mean it like that," he said.
"You're better off without me, remember? So don't bother worrying about me now," Maria said sharply.
Michael didn't know what to say. He knew he deserved her anger, but the words still stung. "Fine, whatever," he said quickly. "I knew this was a mistake anyway. I'll see ya." He turned and started back out the window. He was almost out when he heard her choke back another sob. The sound made him turn his head.
Maria had lay back down on the bed and had her head buried in the pillows as her body shook with sobs. He knew he should go, but there was no way he could leave her alone like that. His heart overrode his head as he stepped back into the room and went over to sit beside her on the bed.
"Leave me alone," she said, her voice muffled by the pillow.
"Maria, I can't leave you like this," he said softly.
"I don't want your fucking pity, Michael. Just get out!" she said miserably as she continued to sob.
He hated seeing her like this. It tore him apart to see her so unhappy on a day when happiness should be all she was feeling. If anyone deserved that, it was Maria.
"Please don't cry," he whispered as he laid a hand on her back.
"God, just go away," she moaned.
"Maria, I'm sorry . . ." he said in a tortured voice. The pain in her voice filled his own as her broken heart became his. It suddenly hit him just how much he missed her. He also saw again how much he had hurt her and he hated himself for that. "God, I'm so sorry," he whispered.
She continued to sob into her pillows, too far gone to fight him as he rubbed her back lightly. Her shoulders shook with her sobs and each tremor was like a knife to his heart. It killed him to see her in so much pain. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore and he leaned down to scoop her up into his arms and pulled her against his chest. Maria went willingly into his arms, seeming to forget her earlier protests and just be content with having someone there to hold her.
"I'm so sorry, Maria," he said softly as he rocked her back and forth in his arms. "I'm so sorry."
He held her close as she continued to cry. Michael felt all of her pain and took it all in. He felt like it was the least he deserved. Though it may not have been all about him, he felt like this was all his fault. He'd hurt her. He'd made her cry. Nothing in the world could be worse as far as he was concerned.
Maria cried on his shoulder for what seemed like forever. Everything that had gone wrong lately just seemed to pour out of her as she clung to him for dear life. The fact that she should still be angry with him left her mind as the warmth of his arms around her began to finally quiet her sobs. When she had been still against him for several moments, Michael ventured to speak.
"Feel better?" he asked softly.
She nodded against his chest. "Yeah, thanks," she said quietly in a voice still hoarse with the tears she'd shed. "Sorry about that," she added as her embarrassment at her outburst began to set in.
"No, don't be sorry," he told her as he brought his arms tighter around her body. "It's . . . it's okay. Anytime you need . . . well, anything. You can always come to me. I'll always be here."
His words made her feel better for a moment, but she still didn't believe them. She knew that none of this would last. Eventually he'd be gone and she'd be alone again. He could never stay with her for very long. It just wasn't in him.
"I'm not leaving," he said softly.
"You can read my mind now?" she asked, more surprised than upset at the intrusion.
"Not really, but I can feel your emotions and I know you think I'm going to leave. I won't, I swear." He sounded sincere and she so wanted to believe him.
"At least tonight, can you just hold me? Just stay with me?" she asked. She knew the words made her sound desperate, but she no longer cared. She was desperate, after all.
Desperate to be a part of something, to feel like she was needed and wanted . . . maybe even loved.
"I'll stay," he vowed and she felt him press his lips to her forehead. She closed her eyes and reveled in the feel of him all around her.
Michael lay down on her bed then, keeping his arms around her to take her with him. Maria curled up against his chest and let him pull her even closer. Soon the rhythm of their synchronized breathing was all that could be heard in the tiny, dark room. She snuggled closer to him and breathed in the scent that was uniquely Michael. This was all she ever needed to be happy. Right there, in his arms, she had everything she could ever hope for.
"Michael," she said finally.
"Shh, sleep," he replied.
She ignored him and sat up to look at the man that still held her to him like his most prized possession. "I don't want to sleep," she said.
"Maria--" he began, but she cut him off before he could protest. Her mouth found his and his words were lost to her kiss. She moved up until he was on his back and she was hovering over him. Their lips still met in a kiss that grew quickly passionate.
Dont have to read NC-17 part to understand the story
When she woke, Maria couldn't remember just what had happened for a second. Then, she felt the pair of strong arms wrapped possessively around her middle and felt the steady, even breathing against the back of her neck and it all came rushing back. She remembered the previous night with sudden clarity. The way he'd looked at her, the way he'd touched her, the way he'd felt inside of her . . . it all came back to her in crystal clear detail. She smiled to herself at the memories. She knew that would go down as the best night of her entire life.
It wasn't long after that Michael began to rouse as well. He groaned at the early morning light and buried his face against her neck as he tried to hang on to sleep for another precious moment. Finally surrendering to the morning, he lifted his head just slightly and said in a voice still rough with sleep, "Morning."
"Merry Christmas," Maria put in.
Michael smiled and turned her to face him. He bent his head to kiss her sweetly and said, "Merry Christmas to you, too, beautiful."
She grinned. "You know, it's kind of funny."
"What's that?" he asked.
"Well, as a kid, I always couldn't wait to get out of bed on Christmas morning, but now . . ."
"Now?" he grinned.
"Now I think I could stay in bed all day," she replied.
"Well, I was never big on Christmas morning anyway, but I'm starting to like it if we get to stay in bed all day," he said.
"We'll have to get up sooner or later. My mom's going to be home eventually today."
"She wouldn't appreciate this whole scene?" he asked with a smirk.
Maria giggled and said, "Not likely."
"Oh well, guess I'll have to enjoy it while it lasts," he said as he leaned in for another kiss.
"Are you going to Liz's tonight for dinner?" she asked against his lips.
"I wasn't going to, but I have been known to be persuaded," he answered.
"And just what does it take to persuade you, Martian man?" she asked with a grin between kisses.
Michael moved his lips to her neck and murmured, "Oh, we'll think of something, Blondie."
She grinned and arched her neck to revel in his kisses. She was sure that he would think of something . . . and she couldn't wait to find out what.
December 14, 1999