Title: Better Late Than Never
Disclaimer: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Summary: It's the end of the summer and Michael Guerin is about to head off to college in New Mexico with Max and Isabel Evans... leaving behind a younger Maria DeLuca in California who has been in love with Michael for what seems like forever. Can she really handle him leaving the state without telling him how she feels?
Author's Note: This fic is for nibbles2 who won it in the Support Stacie Author's Auction back in April :). She requested a fluffy Candy fic… and so here is my first ever attempt at M/M :).
She hugged her knees to her chest as she gazed out over the crashing waves, barely even noticing the beautiful colours of the setting sun on the horizon. The ocean breeze whipped her long, blonde hair around her face, but she didn't care; she was too focused on the white spray of the water below her. She'd sworn to herself that she wouldn't cry, that she would remain strong and unaffected, but still the unwanted tears leaked from her eyes and she angrily swiped them away with her hand. She'd been determined not to let his leaving affect her. She'd known this day was coming and that there wasn't anything she could do to stop it; after all, what claim did she have over him anyway? She knew he had to go and anyway, she had no right to ask him to stay. But that didn't stop it from hurting any less.
She'd managed to stick around for the afternoon's activities and the majority of the party that evening, but in the end it had all become too much and when she'd seen him joking around and making college plans with Max and Isabel, it only reinforced reality for her and she'd had to get away. So she'd left the party – slipped out unnoticed – and made her way out here, to the place she came to be alone.
Giving a heavy sigh, she let her head fall into her hands; why on Earth did she put herself through this torture? She knew nothing could ever come of this obsession with Michael Guerin; she knew he would never see her as anything but Max's girlfriend's annoying best friend, but still she couldn't stop the ache in her chest she felt whenever she saw him or spoke to him, or even just thought about him. He didn't know it (and she'd never admit it to him either), but secretly she'd been saving herself for him all this time. Even though her head had told her countless times that he was too old, too unobtainable for her, her heart definitely wanted to believe otherwise.
God, why couldn't life just be simple and easy for once?
If only it was, maybe she could actually have had a chance with the illustrious Michael; maybe they could have been happy and in love right now instead of him boasting about all the girls he was planning to hook up with at college and her sitting at home pining over him; maybe he wouldn't be leaving at all and none of this heartache would exist for her.
But it was no use; life was what it was, and no amount of secret pining or moping on her part would change that. She just had to deal with the crappy hand she'd been dealt and make do with simply admiring him from afar.
Realistically, she knew she should just forget about him and move on, but knowing it and actually doing it were two separate things altogether. It was easy to say 'get over it', but how exactly did you 'get over' being in love? It wasn't like you could just turn your emotions on and off like a tap. Michael Guerin was the first guy she'd ever felt more than a fleeting attraction for… he was the only guy who had ever made her tongue-tied and sweaty-palmed just by being in his presence and just the thought of trying to feel that way about anyone else seemed so wrong, so foreign to her.
Once, a few months ago, she'd tried to pluck up her courage and tell him how she felt… she'd even got as far as the doorway of the garage he worked in, but as soon as she'd seen him leaning casually against a half-fixed motorbike, dressed in oil-smudged overalls and a tight black T-shirt, and talking to a pretty blonde, she'd lost her nerve and had quietly retreated from the garage unnoticed. After that, she'd given up on ever managing to confront him about her feelings and had simply settled back into harbouring her secret crush, hoping that someday the feelings she had for him would just disappear and that he would be none-the-wiser.
With a dejected sigh, she lifted her head from her hands and, resting her chin on her knees, she fixed her gaze on the swirling, crashing ocean waves.
Maybe if she stayed out here long enough, he would be gone by the time she returned home and she'd never have to see him again.
Or maybe not…
"Maria!" came his voice again and she turned her head to see him running towards her, looking worried.
"Michael?" his name fell from her lips in a whispered murmur. What was he doing here.
"There you are," he said breathlessly as he came to a stop a few feet from her. "I've been looking everywhere for you."
"You have?" she wondered.
"Yeah," he replied, stepping closer and taking a seat on the grass beside her. She sucked in a breath at his proximity and her heart skipped a beat at the thought that he'd been looking for her. "Liz noticed you were gone, but she and Max were getting a ride home with the Evans', so I said I'd come find you."
And just like that, her heart sank. He was only here because Liz was too busy with Max to look for her herself. She wrapped her arms tighter around her knees, hugging them to her body.
"So, what're you doing out here anyway?"
She shrugged, murmuring glumly, "Just fancied it."
"Oh… okay," he sounded somewhat puzzled by her response, but he didn't say anything more and so they sat in silence for several awkward moments.
"So…" he spoke up eventually. "You come out here often?"
"Sometimes," she shrugged. "When I need to get away for a while."
"I like to watch the waves crashing and breaking against the rocks," she added softly, her gaze fixed on the water again. "It's therapeutic."
"Yeah," she nodded, tears beginning to burn her eyes now. "This is where… where we scattered her ashes."
"Oh," he murmured, straightening up slightly beside her.
"I feel closer to her here… I feel better when I come here."
"You feel better?" the puzzled tone was back again. "Better than what?"
"I…" she started, but then found she couldn't finish.
All the emotions rapidly began to build up in her chest and her carefully constructed wall started to crumble. Everything she was feeling suddenly came crashing down around her… the sadness over her mother's death just two years ago, the annoyance of still being stuck here in this wretched town when the object of her affection was about to move halfway across the country for college, the unrequited feelings for that object of her affections - the boy sitting barely a foot away from her.
She lowered her head to her knees and began to cry, her shoulders shaking with the force of her tears.
"Maria?" came Michael's confused voice. "Maria, what's wrong?"
But she couldn't form words; instead all that came from her mouth was a series of wrenching, hiccupping sobs.
She barely registered his concerned tone as he slipped his arm around her and tugged her close to his side.
"It's okay… don't cry; it's okay," he murmured softly against her hair. "Tell me what's wrong."
She couldn't say anything, so she simply shook her head against his shoulder. He seemed to get the hint though as he just continued to hold her while she cried. The problem was though, as soon as she felt her body relax and her sobs begin to subside, she was starkly reminded of the fact that she was being held tightly in Michael's arms… exactly where she'd dreamed of being for so long; yet there was no chance in hell that she would ever be held by him the way she longed to, and so that thought then set off a whole new round of tears and she was back to square one again.
"You okay now?" he asked some time later, when she'd finally managed to find some form of control over herself.
She shrugged, not giving a definitive answer either way, but instead choosing to stay snuggled against his warm, masculine body for as long as possible. Ever so slightly, with her eyes closed, she turned her head so that she could bury her nose in his T-shirt and inhale his wonderful scent of aftershave and soap.
"Maria?" he wondered a moment later, when she didn't reply.
She forced her eyes open and shifted away from him, fixing her eyes on the grass before her, "Y-yeah, I'm okay."
"You wanna talk about it?"
"No," she shook her head firmly.
She couldn't tell him that she'd just been crying over him, over him leaving for college in the morning.
"Okay," he adhered to her wishes, but there was only a short pause before he spoke up again. "But, um, there is something I wanted to talk to you about."
Maria wiped her eyes with her sleeve before turning her face to his, "There is?"
"Yeah," he nodded, biting his lip.
She frowned; did he look… nervous? No, no, that couldn't be right. What would he be nervous about?
"Actually, you disappearing out here was kind of good," he confessed then. "Because it gave me an excuse to find you and talk to you."
"What do you mean?"
"Well… um," he fumbled over his words and she frowned. What was going on with him?
He'd barely said two words to her all summer and now here he was, trying to talk to her?
It was kinda strange.
"Okay," he managed finally, "here's the thing: I told myself I wouldn't do this; that it wouldn't be fair with me leaving and everything, but there comes a point when… shit… when it all just gets too much and I have to do something about it…"
He broke off and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. Maria frowned again; he seemed agitated about something. She'd never seen him like this before. Usually he was the epitome of stoic and cool.
"What are you talking about, Michael?"
"I'm talking about… God, I don't know how to say this without…"
He seemed to be having an internal battle about something.
"Aw, fuck it…"
Before she even had a chance to be taken aback by his sudden cursing, he was right there in front of her: his hand curling around her elbow, tugging her round to face him; his other hand reaching up to push her windswept curls out of her face; his head lowering towards hers as he captured her lips in a demanding, yet emotion-filled kiss.
At first she was so surprised that she couldn't react to the unexpected action, but then it sunk in what was happening and she felt herself relax into him, her free hand coming up to grasp his upper arm as she responded eagerly.
He was kissing her!
Michael Guerin, who she had been lusting after for longer than she could remember, was actually kissing her.
And what a kiss it was.
It didn't get any better than this… at least not that she'd experienced before anyway; although it wasn't like she'd kissed that many guys… apart from Adam Baker in 7th Grade…. and that other guy, what was his name? Oh, for God's sake, focus, Maria; Michael Guerin is kissing you!
All too soon, however, it was all over and Michael pulled back, his breathing ragged but his expression slightly apprehensive as he looked down at her.
"Michael…" she murmured softly, her voice a mixture of awe and confusion. "What… what was…?"
"Sorry," he apologised unnecessarily. "I just… I've been needing to do that for a long time."
"You have?" her heart leapt in response to his words.
He gave a quick affirmative nod, "I couldn't leave without telling you."
"Telling me what?" her heart began to pound in her chest.
He couldn't really be saying what she thought he was… could he?
"How much I…" he struggled with the words. "How much I love you."
"What?!" her eyes widened in shock and suddenly she couldn't breathe.
Oh God, she was going to have a heart attack.
"Y-you…?" her mouth gaped open.
"Oh, God," he groaned, covering his face with his hand for a moment. "I shouldn't have said anything; I knew it. But Liz said–"
He froze; stopping suddenly as if he'd just made a mistake and his worried eyes met her confused ones.
"Liz said what?" she wondered, slightly worried now.
Michael sighed, looking dejected, "Liz said I should talk to you; tell you how I felt before it was too late. I told her it was a bad idea, but–"
"It wasn't a bad idea," said Maria softly, reaching out a hand to brush against his arm.
He stopped, "It wasn't?"
"No," she replied softly.
A small smile broke out onto her face and her heart jumped in response to his hopeful expression.
"Michael, I… I love you too," she confessed, watching as a wide smile lit up his handsome face. "I've loved you for a long time, but I never even imagined that you could feel the same."
"Not feel the same?" he murmured in wonderment as he cupped her jaw in his palm and ran his thumb along her cheek. "Maria, have you looked at yourself lately? God, I can't even describe it; you're just so…"
"So, what?" she whispered, captivated by the way his eyes were gazing down into hers.
He shook his head as if unable to put his thoughts into words, "You're smart, fun, witty, and totally crazy sometimes– ow!" He yelped in surprise and shot her a sheepish grin as she whacked him on the arm, but then he continued on regardless, "But you're also loving and kind, not to mention, totally and completely gorgeous…"
"Michael," she protested with a shake of her head.
"And I love you, Maria DeLuca," he smiled down at her tenderly. "Even if you can't take a compliment."
She frowned in rebuttal, "I can too take a compliment!"
He grinned, shaking his head, "You so can't! Alright then, let's see… you're gorgeous, Maria."
He chuckled when she winced at the word, thereby proving his point.
"Well," she huffed a moment later. "If you think I'm so 'gorgeous', why haven't you said anything before?"
"Honestly?" he asked and she nodded in confirmation. "I didn't think you would ever see me as anything but Max's jerk friend."
She scoffed, "Don't be stupid."
He leaned closer, his expression suddenly serious, "So, you don't think I'm a jerk?"
"No, I don't think you're a jerk, Michael," she confessed softly, her heart pounding in her ears now. "In fact, I think you're smart and fun… and totally gorgeous as well."
"You do?" he was whispering now, his face barely a few centimetres from hers.
"Yeah, I do," she confirmed.
"Wow," he breathed in awe.
He stared down at her for a moment, before flashing her a devastating smile and murmuring, "Come here."
Their lips met once more in a frenzy of passion, neither one of them holding anything back this time as Maria launched herself into his arms and he complied eagerly. Time seemed to stand still for Maria as she explored Michael's lips with her own, melting against him as his hands swept up and down her back.
God, this was what she'd been dreaming of for so long and now it was finally coming true!
She loved Michael Guerin and, miraculously, he loved her back.
They remained locked together in their passionate embrace for several long minutes, but it wasn't much longer before oxygen became an issue and they were forced to part. Breathing heavily, Maria looked up into Michael's darkened eyes and they shared a private smile before he held up his arm and she willingly accepted the invitation, snuggling up against his chest.
They sat together on the grass at the edge of the cliff for undeterminable minutes and Maria used the time to try to get her head around what had just happened. But her thoughts were interrupted by Michael's curious voice a few moments later,
"What were you crying about earlier?"
"Oh, um," she shifted against him uncomfortably, not really wanting to admit that she'd been crying over him. "It's not important."
"Yes, it is," he insisted, hugging her closer to his side. "If it upset you, then it's important."
Maria sighed, closing her eyes as she spoke, "I was crying because I was about to lose you… what with you leaving for college tomorrow and everything. I didn't think there was any way that I stood a chance with you."
"Oh," his reply was subdued. "Maria…"
"You could have said something earlier, you know," she muttered. "Instead of leaving it until just a few hours before you moved hundreds of miles away."
"So could you," he countered, before giving a sigh. "I'm sorry, I should have thought this through better."
"I'm sorry, too."
"Better late than never, though, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess," she nodded.
There was silence between them for several seconds, before Maria spoke up again.
"What are we gonna do now?"
"I don't know," admitted Michael, running his fingers over the skin of her arm. "But we'll think of something."
"Yeah?" she looked up at him uncertainly.
"Yeah," he smiled. "I've just found you; I'm not planning on letting you go anytime soon."
She returned the smile, "Me either."
"We'll write, and call, and e-mail, okay?" he proposed. "I'll come home whenever I can and you can come out to New Mexico to visit whenever you want."
"Yeah," her smile widened. "Okay."
"I know this is all really fast, but I want to give this… us… a go," confessed Michael then. "I think we could be good together."
"I think so too," she agreed with a grin. "Just as long as you don't start doing that bad-boy, leather-jacket-and-motorcycle thing again, okay?"
"No, I won't," he nodded solemnly, before giving a smirk. "You know that was only for you, right? You weren't taking any notice of me, so I figured I would try out the 'play it mean, keep them keen' tactic."
"Oh, yeah, and that worked really well," Maria rolled her eyes in amusement. "All it got you was a black eye from Kyle Valenti for flirting with Tess Harding and a ban from the Parkers' café for promoting dangerous driving of a motorcycle."
"Yeah, that wasn't one of my finest moments, huh?"
"You got that right," she giggled. "Although…" she grinned wickedly and leaned up to whisper in his ear, "your tactic actually worked… that leather jacket and jeans combo totally got me hot and bothered."
"Really?" his eyes widened.
She nodded, raising a suggestive eyebrow, "I never admitted it, but, yeah."
"Yes!" he punched the air with his free hand. "I knew it would."
"You did, huh?" she laughed.
"Oh, yeah," he nodded confidently. "Definitely."
She just looked at him sceptically and it wasn't long before he caved.
"Okay, so it's not true, but can I at least pretend that it is?"
She smirked and rolled her eyes, turning back around to settle against his chest once more, "Fine, if you must."
"Thanks," he replied, slipping his arms around her and hugging her close against his warm body, as he pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek. "I love you, Maria DeLuca."
She gave an indulgent smile at the feelings his heartfelt words invoked in her, as she let herself melt against him.
"I love you, too, Michael Guerin."
And just like that, in the space of just a few minutes, her entire life had changed for the better.