Disclaimer- I don't own anything so please don't sue me. It really isn't worth it!.
A/N:This is a response to a challenge on CID

A/N: Thank you so much to Dreamerlaure for being an excellent beta!

Chapter 1

"It's over," Maria forced herself to say as she stared at the man she loved for the last two years.

"What?" Michael cried. A frown then marred his handsome features. They were in the middle of the usual rush hour lunch at the Parker's alien-themed café, "The Crashdown," when she broke the news to him. He was flipping a burger so he froze, his spatula mid-air.

"It's over," Maria replied with strength she did not possess. Taking a deep breath she willed herself to look into his eyes and for her voice not to break. "I can't do this anymore. It's not working. It's just not going anywhere."

"What do you mean? Where do you want it to go?" Michael asked moving towards her, leaving the grill, burgers and fries completely forgotten.

"It doesn't matter what I want anymore. You never used to care, so why are you making this harder," Maria cried. She knew she was being unfair. She knew he cared. The guy had stayed on earth for her instead of leaving to go to his home planet, something he may never be able to do again. And he had stayed for her, a mere human. He didn't want to leave without her. He loved her. She silently plead, 'Oh, God. I'm so sorry Michael, but please don't hate me. This is the only way. I have to push you away.'

"What? Maria, that's not true. I've always cared. I may not have shown it before but I've always cared. I do care. You mean everything to me," he replied, desperately willing the pain building in his chest to subside. When all she did was heatedly shake her head, he stepped towards her warily.

"Maria, whatever it is, we can fix this – I can fix this. Just tell me what you need. Please Maria, tell me what you want me to do," He knew he was begging, but right then he really didn't care.

"Maria?" he called, reaching out to hold her, but when she abruptly took a step back he froze, his arm still hovering awkwardly in the air.

"I'm sorry," she replied, looking everywhere but at him and at the same time blinking furiously keep the tears that threatened to fall at bay. "I just don't love you anymore," and she turned and ran out the kitchen and out of the café. She didn't stop until she was a block away. She reached an abandoned alleyway, and she slumped heavily onto the wall. Then the tears she had desperately tried to keep a hold on, flowed freely.

'Oh god. Michael. Breathe,' she mentally reviewed. But then something inside of her broke, and she sobbed, 'No, no.' No longer in control of her emotions, Maria DeLuca broke down. Wounds she had managed to hide for so long opened raw before her. She cried for her mother, her cousin Sean, her father, her friend Alex, and Michael. Most of all, though, she cried for herself.

Michael stood rooted to the spot, staring at the door Maria ran through. Finally tearing his eyes away from the door he glared at his outstretched arm, and he didn't even flinch when the sugar containers and the ketchup bottles on the counter exploded.

"Oh my god, Michael. Are you ok?" Liz cried when she ran into the kitchen to check out the noise. Michael looked up at her, his eyes glazed and his expression pensive. Dejectedly his arm dropped back to his side and he blinked as if finally seeing her standing before him. Afraid of to use his voice he nodded his head and turned back to the grill. Instead of noticing that the burgers were burnt, he just stared.

"Are you sure?" Liz questioned seriously concerned. Nodding his head, Michael automatically picked up the burger flipper and started flipping the burnt burgers. Unsure of what else to do Liz released a resigned sigh, turned away, and walked out. Michael had always been a hard case, and if he didn't want anyone to know what was wrong, there was no way anyone would.

Ten minutes later, Maria was still slumped against the wall of the empty alleyway as she cried her heart out. She knew she desperately needed the money from the café, but knowing that she would not be able to face Michael, she finally decided to just head home. Once there, she could call Liz and tell her that she will not be able to finish her shift. Finally picking herself up from the floor with shaky legs and supporting herself with the wall, she stood, wiped her face with the sleeves of her jacket, smoothed down her hair, and made her way home.

She smiled slightly at the thought of going home to a nice hot bath before her shift at the new local nightclub began. She was eighteen now, and could finally work long hours and have more than one job. Not that she wanted to; she just had to. Money was tight lately, and any job she could get which provided an income was a job she was willing to do.

Once outside her door she took a deep breath and prayed to whatever god that existed for her mother to be home asleep, instead of out and looking for a fix or a way to get 'high'. Exhaling, she unlocked the door and entered the house from the kitchen. Looking around she was surprised to see that everything seemed to be in order. When she walked into the sitting room, she sighed when she saw her mother spread out on the sofa, sleeping. Grabbing a ?throwover?, Maria covered her mother. She stood back and watched the once beautiful woman before her.

Amy DeLuca's life went down the drain the moment her husband walked out the door. Dealing with depression, looking after her seven year old daughter and her troublesome ten year old nephew, and emotionally and financially supporting them had taken a toll on her. She craved for a way out, an escape, or just someway to numb the pain, and she found that with drugs. If only for a few hours anyway. So she kept the habit.

She did clean herself up once though. When Maria had turned twelve and Sean fifteen, Amy's life started to look up. She gave up drugs when she realized that she was running out of money to support both her habit and any money for Sean and Maria to live on. Of course since Amy wasn't working due to constantly being 'high', the money they had been living off was Sean and Maria's college funds. So slowly bringing herself out of her stupor Amy decided to lay off the drugs and to finally be a mother and an aunt to her children. She had managed to stay clean for three years. Although there were times when things were tough and money was tight, they had managed, as a family. Amy had no real qualifications, but she had very talented hands, and she started making alien-like souvenirs for the tourists. And for what seemed like eternity, they were happy.

Of course their happiness only lasted three years. When Sean was eighteen, he got arrested and thrown in jail for attempted robbery and Amy's drug habit had returned full force, if not worse than before. And with her cousin gone, her mother was constantly 'high' or passed out. Soon there was no college fund money, so Maria started working at "The Crashdown." Her best friend, Liz Parker, also worked there and her family owned the café, so it felt like a natural choice.

Maria looked lovingly at her mother and blinked back the tears. She had once been so beautiful, young and full of life, but now she looked so much older than her thirty-five years and her once vibrant green eyes were dull with bags under her eyes.

Finally turning away, Maria decided to go make her phone-call to Liz, have her bath, and make something to eat. She wanted desperately to forget the pain she was feeling in her chest, and the fact she had walked away from the one man she had truly loved. And who had loved her back.

TBC

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