Title: I'll Be There
Disclaimer: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Summary: Two years after You Can Always Count On Me, Max and Liz are still together, but Max is at UNM and Liz is studying at Harvard. They've been surviving on phone calls, internet and seeing each other in the vacations, but when Max calls Liz at Harvard with some good news, will she feel the same way about it?
Author's Note: This is the sequel to You Can Always Count On Me. Before we start, I just want to say that this story is not going to be as light-hearted and fun as You Can Always…. There will be angst – quite a bit actually – but don't worry, this fic is Dreamer insured and there will be a happy ending.
Saturday December 18th 2004
I don't know what's going on with me lately. It's like nothing's going right in my life at the moment. My concentration has been slowly disintegrating recently, my grades are slipping and Max is all the way on the other side of the country. I wish I knew how to fix this, I wish I knew what to do to make this all go away; but I don't. All I can do is just go through the motions and let everything just pass me by.
God, I just want my old life back...
Lethargically, I tear my gaze away from the TV and glance in the direction of the door, the remote dangling from my outstretched arm, which, until a second ago, was in the process of flipping through the channels. The door opens slightly and a face peers through the gap.
"You mind if I join you?" he asks, flashing me a cheeky grin. "I brought ice cream," he says in an attempt to sway me.
I send him a grateful smile and pull myself up from my position lying on the couch to make some room for him.
"Go on, then, if you must," I sigh in mock annoyance, but he's not affected by my apparent moodiness.
The door opens fully and he makes his way towards the couch, a spoon and a tub of Ben and Jerry's in each hand. Handing the contents of one hand to me, he settles down at the end of the sofa and gets comfortable.
"So, what are we watching?"
"Not much," I sigh miserably. "There's nothing on."
"Hey, don't be so negative," he admonishes, placing his tub of ice cream on the floor and grabbing the remote from my hand. "I'm sure there's something on."
"I wouldn't be so sure," I mumble, not caring how it sounds. I pull the lid off the tub and hastily dig in to my favourite chocolate ice cream.
He just looks at me for a second, before placing the remote on the armrest next to him and shifting slightly in his seat. I look down at the tub in my hand, reluctant to listen to what I know he's going to say.
"Liz…" he starts quietly and I close my eyes in preparation for what's coming. But he just sighs and brushes my shoulder with his fingers. "Come here, you," he says softly and urges me to move closer to him. I sigh gratefully and settle back against him, my head resting against his shoulder and my legs stretched out along the sofa. His arm rests between the back of the couch and my left arm.
"God, Jack…" I start, but don't seem to be able to continue without my chin trembling and tears welling up in my eyes. Suddenly I'm glad that I'm facing away from him.
"I guess it's probably not worth me asking how you're feeling today?" he jokes in an obvious attempt to lighten the atmosphere, but all I can do is shake my head and will the tears to go away.
"Look, Liz," he tries again. "I know this is hard for you and that you don't want to hear this, but I really think you need to tell him."
An ache starts up in my chest as he says those words and I find myself shaking my head again, vehemently this time.
"I can't, Jack; I just can't. I'm not strong enough."
"But you can't keep living like this, either. It's not doing either of you any good," he reasons and I know he's right.
But I can't tell Max.
God, what would he think of me?
I think Jack gets the message then, because suddenly he stops talking and we sit in silence for a while, the only sound coming from TV across the room. Jack still hasn't touched his own ice cream and instead, his left hand strokes my arm comfortingly.
I can only take about five minutes of it, before I have to break the silence. "So, I guess Becca and Tim are out on the town tonight?" I ask, more out of something to say, than actual curiosity.
Becca and Tim, along with Jack, are my housemates. We've been friends since we all lived in the same dorm in freshman year here at Harvard. Becca was my roommate and Jack and Tim lived down the hall. At the end of that year, we all decided that we'd rather find somewhere off-campus to live than stay in the dorms for another year, so we came to a mutual agreement that we'd all live together. That was a year and a half ago and we're still sharing the same house we moved into at the start of sophomore year.
"Yeah, they are," Jack replies. "But not together, of course."
I nod. Becca is something of a party animal; she's always gong to some social event or another. I don't think she's had a Saturday night in all semester and since school let out on Friday and we're all going back home for Christmas vacation in the next couple of days, she's making the most of it. Tim, on the other hand is most likely out on a date with his girlfriend, Kelly. They met in English class, back at the beginning of sophomore year. They worked on a project together and ended up going on a date. They have been together ever since. I'm happy for them; they seem to have a really good, solid relationship. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they got married in a couple of years.
"So, then, what are you doing still here?" I ask Jack then.
"Why, keeping you company, of course."
I smile. "That's really sweet, Jack, but I'm fine. I promise."
"Maybe, but I'm still staying here with you this evening, so don't even try it," he warns and I sigh.
I should have known that wouldn't work.
"Fine," I mumble, but leave it at that. I relax back against him again and occupy myself with shovelling spoonfuls of ice cream into my mouth, while Jack tries to find something worthwhile to watch on TV.
Half an hour later, we're still on the couch, but tiredness has overtaken me and now I'm lying on my side on the couch, the ice cream abandoned and my head resting on Jack's lap. He's casually running his fingers through my hair; which, however nice it feels, is unfortunately sending me to sleep.
My eyes are just starting to drift closed when the phone on the coffee table in front of the sofa begins to ring and startles me out of my peaceful state of mind. Groggily, I lift my head and pull myself up into a sitting position as I reach for the phone.
"Hello?" My voice comes out all sleepy.
"Hey, sweetie," comes the masculine, throaty voice.
I smile. It's Max.
"Hey…" 'honey'…it's on the tip of my tongue to say, but somehow I can't get used to this idea of Max's to use pet names for each other; it just seems so cheesy. We managed without them for over a year, but now he's got it into his head that we should use them. I agreed to go along with it for his sake, but saying it back just makes me uncomfortable and so I try to avoid doing it too much. "…You," I settle with. "What's up?"
"Okay, so I know I'm going to see you in a couple of days anyway, but I've got some great news and I couldn't wait that long to share it with you."
I smother a chuckle. "Ah, so that's why you're calling me at almost midnight, when you know how much I need my sleep," I reply good-naturedly. There's just something about Max that brings out the excessive teasing nature in me.
"Yeah, sorry about that. It's only ten here. I didn't disturb you, did I?" he apologises.
I glance over at Jack, who has finally decided that he'd better get on and eat his ice cream before it melts completely. "No, not at all; just hanging out in front of the TV with a tub of Ben and Jerry's," I tell him with a smile. "So, what's the big news?"
"Well, I didn't want to say anything until it was final, but since my grades have been really good this semester, one of my professors suggested this great opportunity for m – "
"Really? That's great, Max. What is it?" I ask excitedly, only to hear a 'tut' from Max.
Oops, I think I just cut him off in the middle of a sentence.
"Well, if you'd let me finish, I'll get to that," he jokes and I can just picture him rolling his eyes at me on the other end of the line.
"Sorry," I apologise. "Carry on."
"Well, I applied last month and just got an acceptance letter today..."
"And…?" I'm nearly dying here.
"Guess what? After Christmas, I'm going to be attending Harvard with you for a semester."
"You what?" I practically squeal. "You're coming here? Oh my God." A grin spreads across my face, my earlier dilemma - the one that needed the ice cream - momentarily forgotten. "How?"
"Well, apparently, there are opportunities for good students to take part in school exchanges, not just international ones, but also between different schools here. I had to put in a lot of effort to show the school board that I was capable of handling the work at Harvard, but they accepted me and I start classes with you after Christmas vacation."
Oh my God, is all I can think right now. My mind is overwhelmed by the fact that after more than two years of living 2000 miles apart, Max and I will have four straight months of being able to see each other every day.
"I can't believe it, Max! Wow, this must be really exciting for you. Where are you going to live while you're here? I'd offer to put you up here, but you know how tiny my room is and we don't have any spare rooms."
"Yeah, I know," he replies, a little less enthusiastically than just now. "I didn't think that would be a realistic possibility anyway; but don't worry, the exchange programme committee are sorting out some accommodation for me. I'll probably have to live in a student apartment, but I'll still be pretty close to you."
"Wow, this is really great, Max! Now we'll have a reason to look forward to going back to school after New Year's instead of moping around like usual."
"Yeah, we will," I can hear the smile reappear in his voice. "Look, I'd better let you go now. It's pretty late there and I know you haven't started your packing yet," he teases and I'm about to tell him off, when I realise that he's right. I'm nowhere near ready to leave for New Mexico yet.
"Okay, you're right. I should go," I tell him. "I'll see you Monday, though."
"Yep, Monday. I can't wait to see you again. It's been so long this time." He's right. We were both tied up with assignments over Fall break and Thanksgiving. We haven't even been in the same room together since the summer. "I'll be thinking of you until then," he adds.
"Me, too," I reply. A lump forms in the back of my throat and I immediately feel guilty because it's not there for the reason it should be.
"I love you," he tells me warmly.
I swallow. "Love you, too," I manage, trying to make it sound upbeat, but it just comes out in a whisper.
"Bye." I click off the phone and place it back on the coffee table. I avoid glancing at Jack, who's still tucking into his ice cream.
"So, Max is coming here?" he asks suddenly and I close my eyes for a moment, wishing that I didn't have to get into this with him.
"Yeah, he managed to get a place on the UNM student exchange programme. He'll be studying here at Harvard for a semester." He takes this in and then nods slowly. Frustrated, I place my head in my hands. "God, what am I going to do? How do I fix this, Jack?"
"I don't know yet, Liz; but we'll figure it out, I promise," he reassures me, taking my hands and pulling me into a warm hug. "It'll be okay, you'll see."