TITLE: Examining Michael
AUTHOR: Elise (BehrBeMine)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything. Don't sue, I'll cry. ;p
SUMMARY: Told from Michael's POV. Just a quick dip into the mind of Michael
Guerin. It's something I've always wanted to do; Michael is so complex that it's
interesting to attempt to explain why he is the way he is.
DISTRIBUTION: Guilty Pleasures - - http://www.sevensoupcans.com/guilty/
To archive anywhere else, just ask.
RATING: PG-13 for mild swearing.
SPOILERS: Eh... it might spoil anything up to "Heart of Mine."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Forgive me; in rewatching "Independence Day" for the first time in over a year, I realized that there are errors in my story. Overlook 'em and I'll love you. I'd just rather not change a story of mine once it's been archived.

Most people in my situation at least have the satisfaction of knowing when it was that their life began to screw up. Lucky bastards. In my case, there's no point that my worthless existence came to be just that; it was simply always that way. *I* was always that way.

Worthless. I can already guess what Maxwell would say about my life being referred to with such a word. "Michael, you're not worthless," he'd say in that tone that always fails to reassure. "Nobody's worthless, everybody has a purpose in life."

Be that as it may, there are those that don't have a specific purpose other than to exist day after day, much to the annoyance of onlookers. Not that the onlookers mean anything, and not that I care what the hell they think of me. Still, I'm not so blind that I don't notice the subtle looks of contempt thrown my way.

When I was a kid I used to think it was because I didn't have a family. Families give you strength, they stand by you no matter what happens, no matter how many times you screw up. They stay loyal to you because they respect you. Family is everything to me, always has been. Probably because I've never really had one of my own.

Sure, I guess I can always say that Max and Isabel are family enough for me, and our bond is so tight that I know they'd do anything for me. At least I like to convince myself of that daily. Still, it's not enough. It never was.

Maybe it was fate that allowed Maxwell and Isabel to be adopted together into a nice home. Maybe it was all planned that way to ensure that Max would grow up to be a stable and clear-thinking person so that he'd rule wisely when he accepted the throne on our home planet. And maybe it was just my bad luck that sent me into a string of foster homes as a young child before settling for years with a drunken bastard that lived in a trailer park.

I was always having bad luck come my way; even now, it's rare that I catch a break and ride the easy lifestyle for those excruciatingly short periods of time. But, to be fair, I have gotten lucky a few times during these seventeen years of hell. I guess my biggest accomplishment has been falling in love with Maria. Nothing else in my life has ever felt so right, and so meant to be. Although it was difficult to let my guard down and allow myself to become vulnerable to her companionship, there's no doubt in my mind that was the smartest thing I've ever done.

-- Flashback --

Michael tagged along behind Max Evans in the school hallway on the last day of ninth grade. "There she is," Max gasped, stopping in his tracks.

Quickly, he stopped too quickly, and Michael rammed into his back.

"Ouch! Michael - - geeze! Watch where you're going!" demanded a frustrated Max. His expression softened as he gazed down the hallway. Liz Parker leaned comfortably against a locker about ten feet away, giggling with a group of friends.

"I know, I know, right? So he calls and he's all, 'Hey, sweetie, wanna hook up sometime?' I was all like, oh my God!" With a mischevious grin, Liz gushed the details of the last night to her friends as they stood around her in a lopsided circle. "So anyway, he must have thought I was like this total ditz because I was sitting there hyper-ventilating by the phone."

Laughing with excitement, a pixy-blonde girl Maria chimed in, "So are you guys, like, going out now or what?"

"I don't know, I mean, I guess so," answered Liz, her heart a-flutter. "He said he wants me to meet him in the eraser room after last period."

"God, can you believe this?" said a tall red-headed girl, stifling the scream that had lodged itself in her throat. "Liz is going to the eraser room with Kyle Valenti!"

"I know!" Squealing with glee, Liz jumped up and down while clasping her friend's hands.

-- End Flashback --

Freshmen year could've been a little better if Maxwell hadn't fallen completely head-over-heels for Liz. I'd always known he had a thing for her, but damn, it began to turn into an all-out obsession. Everytime we passed her locker, he'd make me stop and shut up so he could watch her talking and laughing with all her millions of friends. Was I the only one immune to her charms?

It's not so much that I didn't like Liz, although I've got to tell you, I REALLY didn't... But it was the fact that she stole Max's attention without even trying. Immediately he'd shush me if we even came within hearing distance of her bratty little voice. Suddenly she was of more importance to him than me, even though she hardly knew he existed.

-- Flashback --

"Haha, Liz Parker and Kyle Valenti, that's funny," Michael said after the group of girls had moved on towards their next class.

Shooting Michael a pained expression, Max trudged on to math, disappointed. "Now I have no chance. I knew I should've just asked her out already."

"Oh come on, Maxwell. She's not worth all that, just forget about her."

"I don't want to forget about her," Max stated, unable to keep the hurt from his voice.

Quickening his steps, Michael rushed to stand in front of his best friend, blocking his way. "Hey, I know what'll cheer you up. Let's go shoot some hoops after school, at East Park. I'll go easy on you this time, let you get a few points in," he joked.

Max's shoulders sagged as he sighed. "Naw... I don't wanna. I think I'm just gonna go home after school. Start my summer off with a bleh." That said, he walked away. Now it was Michael's turn to let his shoulders sag.

-- End Flashback --

It's kind of strange the way you end up with people. Maria DeLuca. Who would've thought she and I would ever be an item? Not me, that's for sure. I guess that's one good thing that came out of Max's reckless decision to save Liz on that fateful day at The Crashdown, uniting the three of us with Liz's inner circle of friends.

I'd never really taken the time to notice Maria before we were thrust together to help keep the alien secret from getting to the ears of higher authority. I'd just always seen her as this eccentric blonde that was always gushing with perkiness. A nuisance. She'd almost always annoyed me. Probably because she was always around Liz.

But despite that, as she became a part of my everyday life, my lips collided with her own and before I knew what was happening, I was sucked into Mariaville, strange and unexpected as it was. And as time went by, I came to care for her more than anyone on this planet. At first it scared me, really scared me. It does even now. I never used to think I was even capable of feeling such an emotion, love, until she came along. I hated the feeling at first; I felt vulnerable, like nothing was in my control anymore.

After rebelling and succeeding at breaking her heart in two, I found myself accepting the emotional claim she had on me. It's what you have to do in order to really fall in love, I guess. Surrender your fears of commitment and responsibility, and just allow yourself to sink into the arms of that special someone. Trust. I had to trust. Over time I learned to trust Maria. I'm sure I always will. Once you take that plunge, unfortunate or not, there's no turning back.

-- Flashback --

It was tenth grade and Max and Liz had finally gotten together. The two sat dreamy-eyed at a table in The Crashdown, obviously making the most out of Liz's break.

Max was speaking softly to her as he leaned forward to lightly touch her hair. Liz laughed as he cracked a joke and reached over to playfully tap him on the shoulder.

"My God... it's like watching Romeo and Juliet on helium," Maria remarked with some disgust to mask the envy in her voice. She had paused while taking Michael's order long enough to glance over at the infatuated couple. "They're completely oblivious to everything around them, it's just sad."

Turning her attention back to Michael she'd paused as she noticed him staring at her in a dazed manner. Failing to see the significance, she'd rolled her eyes and said, "What?"

-- End Flashback --

Personally, I think the circumstances surrounding Maria and me were better. There was no pining over someone in the beginning. I wanted her, and she was there. So we got together. That's always been my way. Bluntness solves things quicker. Saves me from all that unwanted angst, too. I'll leave that to Max.

You know, I never did get that whole lovey-dovey thing Max and Liz have going for them. I suppose that comes of no surprise, considering my background.

-- Flashback --

On a lukewarm day during seventh grade, Michael entered the lunchroom and searched for his usual lunch companions. Spying them at a table in the corner, he made his way over.

Plopping his crumbled-up paper sack onto the tabletop, he sat down next to Isabel who eyed him suspiciously. "Where were you all morning?" she inquired with concern, fearing she already knew the answer.

"In my room," he answered in a mumble, refusing to meet the eyes of Isabel and Max that seeked to hear more.

"Mrs. Collins said you can't have many more absenses," Max spoke up, reaching for his carton of milk. "If you do they'll flunk you."

Michael scoffed. "Like I care."

"Look up, Michael," Isabel ordered, reaching over for his face. She cupped a hand beneath his chin and raised his head before he had the time to protest, then sucked in her breath. "Max..." she said, glancing uneasily across the table to her brother.

"Yeah, I know," Max answered knowingly, barely giving Michael's bruised left eye a look-see. "Hank got mad again last night, huh?" he pried gently, hurting inside as he always did when his best friend had troubles at home.

Michael shrugged, casting it off as if it were nothing, when all morning he'd cried out in pain, tucked into a ball on his mattress. The mattress he'd slept on for years now, after Hank decided he wasn't deserving of a real bed. All alone he'd felt after another meeting with his foster dad's fist. All alone without a soul in the world to save him. Though God knows Max and Isabel had tried. But they were just kids.

"Come and sleep over at our house tonight," Max offered, swallowing the lump of rage in his throat. What a terrible guardian Hank was. It was such a tragedy that a boy as fragile in confidence as Michael had ended up in such a damaging household.

Though he was thankful, Michael's voice came out as nothing more than a monotone. "Yeah, okay."

-- End Flashback --

Cuts and bruises heal. It was my confidence that suffered. It was a great day when I finally found the strength to get out of that trailer park and declare myself a legal adult. My apartment's nice; spacious and yet cozy. That's what Maria had called it. So I guess that means she likes it. Which is a plus.

I still have trouble sleeping sometimes. I feel silly, almost a man and still knocking on Max's bedroom window at night, asking to sleep on his floor. I've been doing it for so many years now it comes as no surprise to him anymore. He just nods and tosses the sleeping bag to the floor before collapsing into his bed again.

I should be grateful I have such a loyal friend. He understands my reasoning without having to question it, which definitely has saved me a lot of humiliation over the years. Beyond that, I have too much pride to just break down and speak of my fears to almost anyone. But, then again, I don't think that's so much me as it is just that I'm a guy. I'm still waiting for the day that Maxwell will shut the window in my face and rake his eyes over me with disgust as he realizes just what a failure I am.

Of course that's a terrible thing to expect from your best friend, but it's my fear with everybody. So many people that I've tried to get close to have failed me when I needed them the most, and over the years it's just become a given that the vicious cycle will never be stopped. Everyone cracks at some point. I can't ask them to accept my flaws forever.

-- Flashback --

Liz sighed in frustration as she slammed a plate of food on the counter, giving Michael an icy glare as he continued to flip burgers on the sizzling stove at The Crashdown. "Michael, stop cremating them! All the customers are complaining the food tastes burned."

"I'm cooking them like I always do," Michael insisted, pressing down hard on one to squeeze the remaining blood out as he reached for a bun.

"Look at that!" said Liz, pointing angrily to the burger he'd just finished preparing. "It's burnt to a crisp! God, Michael, turn the heat down. I'm not going to be getting any tips tonight if this keeps up! Re-do the order. NOW."

With a huff, she flung the order sheet at Michael's face and rushed out to apologize to a customer, assuring them their food would be done right this time and would be ready in just a few minutes. "We're just having a bit of a problem with the cook," she explained.

Rolling his eyes angrily, Michael glared down at the order slip in his hand. "Sometimes I really hate that girl." Scanning his eyes over the order, he sneered at the precise handwriting. Figures that a girl like that would have perfect handwriting, he thought to himself. Stupid handwriting, he topped.

Not like Maria's. It was the kind that put you in a good mood to view, not the type of handwriting used by science professors. Maria was always slipping him notes in between classes, scribbled out in all sorts of neon pens. Her big, girlish letters were full of big swoops and rounded shapes. In between sentences she'd draw smiley faces and hearts.

Smiling to himself, Michael pressed down on another burger as he watched Maria taking an order at the other end of the room. She stood half-listening, while she twirled a bit of gum with her fingers, then popped it back into her mouth. Nodding, she confirmed an answer to a question the customer had asked before whipping her order pad out of the apron at the front of her uniform and jotting down as he talked.

Sashaying over to Michael, she ripped off that page and handed it back to him. "Look, Michael, I drew you," she laughed. Michael turned his attention to the paper to see that she actually had drawn him.

He smiled, amused. "So what did the customer want to order?"

"Oh, um..." she paused, thinking back. "I dunno, wait, hang on, I'll go ask again."

Michael laughed. She was too cute.

"Michael!" came Liz's high-pitched yell. "Where's my order?"

Sliding a plate over to her, he rolled his eyes. "Here, geeze, it's right here. Stop being such a brat."

-- End Flashback --

To be fair to Liz, though, she isn't always like that. I seem to annoy her as much as she annoys me. It's this whole karma thing we've had going on since forever. I feel hostile and uneasy in her presence, always willing her to go away. I'm pretty sure she feels the same.

She's like this completely different person the moment Max steps into view. Her voice softens and this slight smile plays upon her lips. There's a dreamy sparkle in her eyes that vanishes only after he's left the room. But then the moment she turns to me, it's like the soft glow of her regular personality disappears and all that's left is this impatience. Like she can't wait for me to get out of her sight.

A lot of my dislike for her stems from the fact that she stole Max away. Not that I feel I'm so important I should have all his attention or anything, but it's as if I don't exist when Liz is around. Maybe I'm just being mean, because it's not like it's her fault, but that's the only reason I can really think to explain why she and I have this barrier between us. We're friends by association, but I can't say that I care for her like I do the others in our tight-knit group.

But I guess we've had our moments.

-- Flashback --

"Hey, Michael, can I talk to you?" Liz asked as she approached him in the hallway.

"Uh... yeah, I guess so. What do you need?"

"Well it's just something I need to ask you. Do you have a few minutes?"

"Yeah." Actually he didn't. He'd been on his way to study hall, needing to discuss some things with Maria during his free time. But for some reason he felt like being gracious and followed Liz into the eraser room. "Whoa, this is weird, I mean, being in here with you," he remarked as Liz locked the door behind them.

Embarassment clouded her face for a moment as Liz realized the implications of that statement. "Oh, yeah, I know I'm sorry, it's just that I wanted to be somewhere private and secluded."

"Alright, so what's this you have to ask me?" Michael asked, crossing his arms across his chest as was his usual stance.

"Well, you know, prom is coming up, and I've been thinking about it lately..." Liz paused to sort out her next sentence before going on. "I mean, I realize things haven't been exactly great between all of us for awhile now, but--"

"You want to ask Max to prom," Michael guessed, trying to speed this up. He didn't have the patience to listen to Liz beat around the bush today.

She stopped. "Yeah... It's just, when Max and I started getting closer last year, I kind of already had it planned out in my mind... Circumstances are different, obviously, but... do you think he'd consider going with me?"

"Liz, I'm his friend, not a mind reader. Why don't you just ask him?"

"Well, see that's the thing, Michael. I don't know if I could handle a rejection from him, I'd just be too embarassed for even asking in the first place," Liz explained apprehensively.

Michael exhaled. Girls. What stupid problems they have. "Okay, I guess I can see where you're coming from. So what do you need me for? You want me to ask him for you?"

"No, no, no, nothing like that," she said, smiling with hope. "I just thought I'd ask you if you think he'll say yes. I can't ask Isabel because she'd be sure to tell him, and you're the only other person that's been close with him these past few months."

"What about Tess? She'd know his answer."

Liz's face paled as her smile dissolved. "Michael..." she began.

He sighed. Great, now I made her feel bad, he thought impatiently to himself. Despite the way he'd always felt towards her, he wasn't so heartless as to not care. He didn't want to hurt her feelings. Examining her face for a moment, he answered with certainty, "Yeah, Liz, I think he'd go with you. You know how he feels about you... And anyway it's just the prom. Not marriage or anything."

A smile found its way to Liz's face again. "You think? So I should ask him then."

"Yeah. Ask him."

Sighing with happiness, Liz nodded. "Okay, that's great. Thank you, Michael." She said it with such sincerity there was a moment of silence to follow.

Uncomfortable and very much wanting to leave, Michael sniffed and shrugged his shoulders. "Sure, yeah, whatever," he said, making his way to the door and exiting the eraser room.

-- End Flashback --

I never will like that girl. But at least now I know I can stand her. When I'm in the right mood, anyway.

But Max will always be in love with her. There's no saving that boy, he'll worship the ground she walks on 'till the day he dies. It's beyond love, it's uncontrollable. I think honestly she's the same way. But Max is like that with everybody. He's a very overprotective person, while at the same time one of the most gentle guys I've ever known. It's hard to imagine him hurting a fly, but he would do whatever it takes to keep any of us out of danger. I'd like to think I'd do the same. That old 'I'll watch your back, you watch mine' thing.

I can't guarantee I'd even have the strength or the knowledge to save someone I love if they were in danger. It all goes back to that night last summer, that night when Max saved a life while I took one away. No matter what Max ever does it'll always be regarded as the lesser of two evils, because I'll always be there to do something worse. The black sheep, that's me.

None of this is anybody's fault. I guess it's not mine, either. It's just the way it is. Max is the perfect son, the perfect boyfriend, the perfect brother, the perfect leader. And I tag along for the ride, occasionally tripping somebody or screwing up the plan. It's inevitable; there's no escaping myself. It's taken me a long time to learn to accept that, and I still haven't fully forgiven myself for being the way I am. But I'm starting to deal with it. And perhaps in time I'll be able to overcome it and contribute something worthy to the world, either this one or the one I came from.

-- Flashback --

"There's plenty of good in you, buddy," Max assured as he shot a basketball into the hoop in one swift motion. Hustling up to dribble it back to the center of his driveway, he glanced at his friend that was slouched against a tree in the shadows of the fleeing afternoon.

Stepping up to his friend, Michael took the ball into his hands, twirling it atop one finger before shooting it for the basket. It missed. Sighing, he turned to Max with uncertainty. "You think so?"

"Michael, one day people are going to see you as I see you. As I've always seen you," said Max with brotherly care. Michael shook his head in doubt. "One day," Max continued, "You're going to do something so incredible that everyone will stand up and take notice. Then you'll have no choice but to believe in yourself because you'll finally realize what you're made of." Max stopped to flash his best friend a grin of confidence. "And don't worry. I'll be there to point and say I told you so."

-- End Flashback --

The end.