Title: A Life More Ordinary
Title: A Life More Ordinary
Disclaimer: Story—mine. Everything else—not mine.
Rating: PG-13, for some slightly off-color language
Author's Note: I wrote this story in 2001, but never got around to posting it on my account. (Yes, I actually am that lazy.) However, when a friend mentioned that the website that hosted it seemed to have eaten all of my formatting, I decide it was probably time to move it over here. So here it is, dear readers: my first fic, all cleaned up and re-formatted. It'll take me a little while finish the tidying process, but the whole story should be up in a week or so.
The he-loves-me glow from Vegas was fading fast. Maria had kept the torch alive for a solid two weeks, but...
It had begun to die on the trip home, when Michael had sat in the front seat of the Sheriff's car and refused to scoot the chair forward. (Maria lost all feeling below her knees.) Things had looked even grimmer when he didn't return a single one of the six phone calls she'd managed to sneak past her telephone-privilege-revoking mother.
And she didn't know it, but the deathblow was about to be struck.
As she wandered around the Crashdown, body on waitressing autopilot, Maria pondered Michael's strange lack of basic day-to-day boyfriend skills. He had a real knack for the grand gesture—telling her he loved her and walking away, getting up on a public stage to tell everyone how he felt about her. But he couldn't—or wouldn't—do any of the dozens of little, ordinary, friendly acts that most people used to show their significant others that they cared about them. Saving Maria from evil aliens was Michael's idea of a loving boyfriend-type activity. But calling her back? Letting her choose what channel to watch? Seeing a movie that he was unlikely to enjoy, like, say the new Josie and Pussycats movie that Maria really, really wanted to watch?
Not, reflected Maria, a chance in hell.
She was getting a little grumpy as she developed this line of thought, scooping up tips with more force than necessary and slapping the order slips on the back counter. Eyes narrowed, she snatched the coffee pot off its stand. Marching along the booths, she had just begun revising her ever-growing mental list of all of Michael's character flaws when she was rudely interrupted by the placement of a hand upon her green-skirted derrière.
Maria skidded to a halt, sloshing coffee. Slowly, she began to swivel toward the owner of the hand, a boy she vaguely recognized from school as being a jock acquaintance of Kyle's. He was sitting with several friends, and had apparently decided to demonstrate his machismo by giving his hot little waitress a manly pat on the rear.
Maria did a quick evaluation of her options. Run and tell Liz's Dad? Let Michael know? Hmm… well, she'd deal with the immediate situation herself, and then decide.
"Did you need something else, sir?" she asked, eyes wide. As she completed the turn toward him, she pretended to stumble. The hand holding the coffee pot tipped, and the boiling-hot contents poured directly onto the boy's khaki-clad groin. He screamed. "Oh," she said calmly. "Oopsie. I really need to WATCH MY HANDS, huh?"
The boy didn't answer—he was busy pouring all of the ice water at his table over his trousers.
"Well, I'll just nip on back to the kitchen and grab some extra napkins. Be right back!" Maria trilled, sauntering off toward the swinging doors.
As she pushed her way into the kitchen, Michael came tearing through the back door. "I was tossing the trash," he gasped. "What was that scream? Are you hurt? Was it a Skin?" He grabbed her arms, searching her face for signs of injury.
"Nope," Maria assured him. "This jerk—I think his name is Ryan—grabbed my butt, so I poured coffee on him. No biggie—well, unless he ever plans to have children." She held her breath, waiting for Michael to charge on out into the restaurant and kick Ryan's soggy ass...
Or at least ask if she was okay.
She was disappointed.
Instead, Michael let go of her arms and calmly went back to flipping burgers. "Oh, okay," he said.
Tiny, unholy fires began to shine in Maria's eyes. "Michael," she began, in a very quiet voice, "While, admittedly, Mr. Grabby was not an evil alien, you realize that he had his hand—his grease-coated, cheerleader-groping, football-fondling hand—on my posterior, do you not?"
Michael didn't bother to look up from his work. "Did he leave a big tip?"
Maria hung up the phone and slouched further into the cushions of the break room couch. A few weeks ago Max had decreed that no one was allowed to go out alone after dark (other than himself, of course, because he needed his kingly, brood-y space) and since she was A) sans a Jetta, and B) currently ignoring Michael like she'd never ignored him before, she had called Alex's cell phone. He had sounded a little weird—short of breath—but agreed, in his winning Alex-fashion, to swing by the Crashdown in ten minutes to pick her up.
Picking at a loose thread on her skirt, she began to speculate on Alex's breathlessness. Her favorite scenario involved Alex standing tall and resolute before a distraught Isabel, who had her arms wrapped around his neck (thus his difficulty speaking on the phone) as she pleaded for his forgiveness for the whole Grant thing. He, naturally, would tell her that there was nothing to forgive. A glimmer of hope would dawn in Isabel's beautiful, teary eyes. Then Alex would disengage himself and tell her coldly that their relationship was over. Then Isabel would pursue him and he would weaken and they would get back together and live happily ever after and have cute babies with beautiful faces and goofy-looking hair. Yeah, that would be good. Maria was tired of seeing her best friends waver between a façade of indifference and total desperation. God knew she was tired of doing it. It was like relationship schizophrenia.
Not to mention utterly pathetic.
The sound of Alex's voice drifted in from the café's front. Maria gathered her things and sailed past Michael without a word. She could feel his eyes on her back as she headed toward her friend, but since she wasn't hearing any apologies for mind-boggling callousness or offers to inflict violence upon pat-happy jocks, she didn't bother to turn around. Dismissing him from her mind (a happy state of affairs that rarely lasted longer than five minutes) she bounced toward Alex, noting with disappointment that her Isabel dream seemed unlikely.
Two things led to this deduction. One, Alex was wearing an unfortunate combination of neon green shorts and a white Calvin and Hobbes T-shirt that was positively dripping with sweat, and two, he had brought an equally soggy Kyle along with him. Princess Isabel, Maria reflected, was unlikely to approve of the outfit, the sweat, or the walking buddy.
"Hey, Maria!" Alex beamed at her. Kyle gave her a slight smile and she grinned at them both in return. They headed for the door and stepped out into the dim, dry heat of a Roswell spring evening. "We were playing basketball at the school when you called. Heard you sent Ryan Matthews to the E.R a few hours ago. Did you use the coffee routine?"
"Yup. Clumsy, clumsy me." Maria tried to look sad. Alex snickered.
"The coffee routine?" Kyle looked confused.
"Maria has a tried and true method for dealing with unwanted advances from customers. They pat, grab, whatever—she "accidentally" pours the hottest coffee she can brew onto their crotch. Much suffering ensues."
"Wow." Kyle looked at Maria with new respect, and more than a little fear. Then his eyes narrowed. "So, Ryan Matthews grabbed your ass?"
"Want me to beat him up for you?" he offered.
Maria stopped dead and stared at Kyle, her mind blank. Kyle had offered to beat up Ryan. Kyle, who'd pulled her hair when she was little and made fun of her in middle school and ignored her in high school. Kyle, who was currently demonstrating an affectionate willingness to inflict violence that Michael would never dream of, unless the intended victim happened to have been grown in a tank.
He poked her in the arm. "What? Is that, like, Guerin's territory?"
"No," she replied slowly. Obviously, it wasn't. "Um, why are you offering?"
It was his turn to stare. "Is that, like, a trick question? We're friends, aren't we?"
A smile broke across Maria's face. "Yeah! Yeah, we are. All three of us. And Lizzie! Best of." She looped her arms through Kyle and Alex's, impeding the progress of other pedestrians but the only way she could express the sudden burst of love she felt for the two boys who were almost her brothers.
"Ryan could probably take me, even with a groin cast," Alex said thoughtfully. "But I could hack into his school records and change all those sports recommendations into glowing reports from the theater teacher about his brave, cross-dressing performance as the title character from Evita. Ryan was planning on going to military school, wasn't he, Kyle?"
"You know, boys… thanks, but no thanks. I think Ryan has suffered enough. Or he will, anyway, when the blisters form."
They walked for a while, arm in arm.
"God, you two are really starting to stink."
"Yeah, and you smell so much better, Maria. A certain aroma really clings to all that polyester. Can you identify it, Kyle?"
"Hmm… old fries, with hints of industrial-strength bleach and burned cow flesh."
"Ah, yes. Eau-de-greasepit."
Maria repeated her "I need a walking buddy" call to Alex the next night, and again the next. By the third evening, Alex and Kyle simply arrived at eight thirty and sat on the counter stools, idly spinning, waiting in silence for her to collect her stuff and join them. The three of them trooped out of the café without a word, failing to notice the burning stare Michael fixed on their backs as they set out.
"What's with her?" he muttered, scowling at a perfectly innocent bag of hamburger buns.
"Who?" Liz inquired, as she hefted a tub of used dishes into the sink. "Or were you asking the bread?"
"What about Maria? Is she still mad at you? God, look, Michael, next time just punch the guy, okay? Or, at the very least, keep your mouth shut. Then I wouldn't have to listen—"
"She's not mad."
Liz stopped in mid-lecture. "What do you mean, she's not mad? Of course she's mad. She's furious."
"No, she isn't," Michael replied. "When Maria gets mad she either yells or refuses to even look at me. And she flounces everywhere. Right now, she's just walking. And she said hello to me, but nothing else."
Michael was right, Liz realized. And actually, after her initial "Michael-is-a-piglike-jerkface" rant, Maria hadn't mentioned the incident again. Liz had simply assumed Maria was still angry because she hadn't encountered Maria and Michael making out in the break room. They hadn't talked much lately—Maria seemed to be spending most of her free time with Alex or Kyle.
"It's weird," Michael continued, his voice low.
They stood in silence for a minute, now both scowling at the package of hamburger buns.
"Not her usual Michael-is-a-jackass behavior."
"Well, you would be the expert on the many nuances of Maria rage, wouldn't you, Michael?"
Maria, Kyle and Alex were sprawled on the Deluca couch, eating popsicles and watching Space Ghost.
"The little Timmy episode was the best one."
They had spent the evening in perfect channel-surfing harmony, having decided that they were too lazy to go out and get a movie. On the flickering set, Ghost Planet blew up.
"Thanks to us," Kyle muttered, "Earth has thus far managed to avoid that fate."
"Actually, all we really did was save the people on Earth. No explosions were actually averted."
"Details, Whitman. Mere quibbling."
"No, he's right," Maria shifted slightly. "Really, if we'd just left things alone, humanity would currently be so much compost. Or gone altogether, in my case… hey, we'd finally have really done something good for the planet!"
Alex nodded sagely. "The ultimate environmentalists."
"Maybe next time we should just paint bulls-eyes on our chests and lie down?"
"Hey—if you guys are going to get all morbid on me, I'm heading home," Kyle interrupted, sitting up. "If I want angst, I have my very own alien teen drama queen sleeping in what used to be my bedroom."
"Sit down, Kyle," Maria grinned up at him in apology. "Look, I hereby declare this an angst-free zone, okay?"
Kyle sat back down, mollified. "Okay. But no whiny 'we might as well be dead crap', got it? We have saved the world, people, which means we, without question, kick ass."
"We could start a club," Alex grinned. "All you'd need to do is offer proof that you have averted a planet-wide disaster and pledge to be drama-free."
"Heh. Who'd be president?"
"Me," they all said in unison.
"We could share," Maria decided, warming to the idea. "We'll make new members do boring stuff like take notes and make coffee or whatever."
"What would we call it?" Alex wondered.
"The End-of-the-World-Averters club?"
"Boooooring. Alien-Ass-Kickers Anonymous?"
"Ooh, as compared painfully trite, jockman? The Planet Avengers?"
"Heh. No way, dork."
"Look, children, we can decide later," Maria continued, averting the male bickering with a smoothness born of much practice. Obviously, she thought, she would need to be the real president. "We need to focus on important stuff, like a… secret handshake, and a theme song."
Silence settled over the three as they furrowed their brows in thought, staring at the TV.
"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…."
TBC (And soon, 'cause I wrote it seven years ago.)