Title: Lost and Insecure
Word Count: 1,768
Summary: During Robin's intervention for post-partum depression, Matt learns an intriguing piece of Maxie's past – one that brings them closer together, even as it drives them further apart.
Author's Note: Further notes about this piece can be found on my LiveJournal, which is linked in my profile.
DISCLAIMER: The General Hospital concept, storyline, and characters are © 2009 Jill Farren Phelps/Robert Guza, Jr./ABC/SoapNet. No money is being made from the creation of this material. No copyright infringement is intended.
I. April 2009
The atmosphere in the room is thick and heavy. Tension, apprehension, trepidation weigh down on them like albatrosses. No one wants to be there, milling around nervously, directing gazes to the floor, least of all him. He's barely even a part of this family, the proverbial – and literal – long-lost brother. He wouldn't exactly call himself a friend, either, considering he'd fought – or flirted – with every single soul in the room at some point.
But this is different.
He's here because of Patrick.
His last chance to have a family.
Matt glances over at him, studying him from the corner of his eye. Patrick stands next to the door, gazing out the window, wringing his hands together as he waits for his wife to return home. He's never seen his brother like this – Patrick's legendary charm and confidence usually bordered on arrogance, not insecurity. Some part of him wants to go over and say something – do something – but he's rooted in place, feeling rather awkward and insecure himself.
I don't belong here, he thinks, shifting his eyes over the sea of other faces in the room, extended family and friends filling and blurring his vision. Before he can escape, however, Robin returns, and the anticipation in the air ramps up to eleven. His stomach twists as he looks at her, this woman who tamed his brother – only this is not that same woman. Her eyes are haunted, her lips twisted in an angry sneer as she stares balefully at the lot of them. Immediately, it's obvious her defenses are up, and that this will not be easy.
He recognizes the cast of her expression, sarcastic and furious and so, so afraid. He's been there – in some ways, he still is there.
This is a bad idea, he thinks, but the words stick in his throat. He understands the others' frustration with Robin's recent behavior. Even though he doesn't know her as well as her friends or her family, he's concerned. This is his brother's wife, the mother of his only niece, a fellow doctor at General Hospital, and she's spiraling out of control. He was the first to notice it, diagnose it, and confront her with it – and considering how well that particular incident went? He has no great hopes now.
"Maxie," the interventionist says calmly, "would you like to go first?"
She's sitting in front of him, on the couch with her father and one of the nurses from the hospital. His heart begins to beat a little faster as she shrugs, pushing a lock of blond hair behind her ear as she struggles to find the words to speak. He'd never admit it to anyone, but she's the other reason he's here now. Robin's cousin is a bundle of intriguing contradictions, and he never misses an opportunity to interact with her.
"I admire you a lot, Robin," Maxie begins. "I have since I was little. But lately, I don't – really feel like I know you at all." She twists her hands in her lap, her shoulders tugging down in a deep shrug as her cousin eyes her mercilessly. "You don't ever want to talk about Emma…or taking her shopping, or dress her up."
Robin snorts and rolls her eyes, evidently unimpressed with the comparison between her infant daughter and a doll. Matt furrows his brow. Fashion is Maxie's life, she's made no secret of that, he thinks.
"And I know this is in the past," Maxie continues, "but I still don't completely understand, when Emma was sick, why you insisted that I take her to Mercy Hospital with Johnny. I was really scared, and those doctors? Were asking me to make huge decisions, and I – I didn't know what to do. I mean, I am not her mother."
"Yeah, but if you remember, Patrick was in a burning building that I was helping evacuate at the time," Robin replies crisply.
Matt winces, heat flooding the back of his head as the memory of General Hospital's fire is brought to the fore. He had been the one responsible for unleashing the virus that knocked out his operating room staff, and for putting all their lives in danger when the room exploded in a burst of heat and flame.
His eyes slide to his brother. Patrick had almost died trying to help evacuate the unconscious hospital staff, and if he had…?
Maxie speaks again, shaking her head in disbelief. "I don't understand how that is more important than your child, who was really sick," she contends.
"Maxie, you have no idea what you're talking about," Robin shoots back dismissively. "I can't believe you're sitting here, in my living room, calling me out on my mistakes as a mother."
Maxie is unusually patient; Matt can tell she's trying very hard to keep her temper. "Robin, I'm – just trying to tell you I don't understand – " she starts, only to have Robin cut her off.
"I mean, I have always stuck up for you, even when you do the craziest things," she says, speaking over her cousin even as she addresses her. "So for you to sit here and tell me what a horrible mother I am? Is just ridiculous!"
Mac speaks up in his daughter's defense. "Come on, Robin," he argues, "Maxie adores you."
"Maxie adores Maxie," she swiftly corrects him. "And obviously we all agree that I'm a terrible mother, but I'm not the one that was walking around with a pillow under my shirt, pretending that it was a baby for months, and then pretending to have a miscarriage."
Matt's eyebrows shoot up at this revelation. Maxie crosses her arms over her chest and looks away, the blood draining from her cheeks.
"I mean – Elizabeth, how can you even be in the same room with her," Robin asks incredulously, directing her words to the nurse on the other side of Mac, "when she was giving your husband pills for months?"
Now Elizabeth looks perturbed. "That's between me – " she murmurs, only to be drowned out as Robin barrels on.
"That was the only way she could get Lucky to sleep with her to begin with," she snarls.
"Okay, Robin," Patrick intercedes, his voice deadly calm, "that's enough."
Matt feels his head spinning as the conversation proceeds down uglier and uglier avenues. The tension in the room is so tight that a pin dropping would shatter them all.
"This isn't a forum for you to go after Maxie," the interventionist says, smoothly backing his brother's words.
Maxie's shoulders are shaking now, and Matt peers around her, trying to catch a glimpse of her expression. She's obviously upset, but trying valiantly to hide it, though her pain at being reminded of her past mistakes is plain as she faces her cousin.
"It's not?" Robin replies sarcastically. "So I just have to sit here and listen to everyone attack me, but I don't get to fight back? Is that the way it's supposed to work?" Her eyes roam the room, landing on her husband, her uncle, her friend Elizabeth, the interventionist. "Well, sorry, but I don't think that's very fair."
She turns to Maxie. "Get out," she states coldly. "I don't want you here."
Maxie is already gathering her things as she fights to keep her emotions in check. "This is not you, Robin," she says, standing up. "You would not say those things to me. I think – you need help."
With that, she turns, making a beeline for the door, and her exit shatters some of the tension in the room. Instinctively, he follows her, slipping away quietly as he hears Mac say, "What you said was uncalled for," directing his strained sentiments at his niece.
"Maxie!" Matt calls, rushing after her into the cold night air.
Mercifully, she turns to face him, her phone to her ear, and he is startled to see tears streaming down her cheeks. "What do you want?" she replies darkly, bracing her arms over her chest.
Her words – and her expression – bring him up short. "Are – you okay?" he asks, halting abruptly a few steps away.
"Oh, yes, Matt, just peachy keen!" she spits out. "I love having my past thrown back in my face on a semi-regular and always public basis." She pulls the phone away, glances at its screen, and closes it, stuffing it back in her purse. As she glances back at him, a small, grim smile curves her mouth.
"Yes, it's true, I'm a horrible person," she assures him, gauging the surprise he is too slow to hide, upon learning Robin's accusations are true. "Is that why you're out here? Tell me, Matt, does this change your opinion of me?"
He stares at her, his gaze assessing. It's obvious to him that the episode with Lucky is something that still troubles her greatly, something that brings her great pain, and possibly even remorse. She's slipped back into her comfort zone, though, protecting herself with her rapid-fire words and snippy, self-deprecating insults. She's always the first to admit she's selfish and callous, but he sees straight through it. It's a defense mechanism: if she can make all the potshots before others, she takes away their power to hurt her.
It impresses him, and intrigues him. He wonders what she really thinks of herself – and him, for that matter. She's never had a nice thing to say to him or about him…does the same principle apply? Sometimes she smiles when she fights with him; sometimes her eyes sparkle, like she's trying not to laugh. The attraction between them is magnetic – that much he knows she can't deny.
"Not in the way you might think," he finally answers, his words methodical, thoughtful.
"You're disgusting," she snorts, turning away from him once more, reaching for her phone. "Then again, maybe the only way you can get laid is by slumming it."
He allows the insult to fly past as she begins to walk away. "Wait!" he urges. "Where are you going?"
She glances at him over her shoulder. "I'm calling Spinelli to come pick me up," she informs him. "He's the only person who's ever been able to see the good in me, and that's what I need right now." Her eyes rove down the length of him and back. "Not someone who wants me because he thinks I'm easy."
Don't be so sure of that, he contends silently, watching her hurry down the sidewalk, to the corner of the street. I want you, Maxie Jones, of that you can be sure – but I know damn well you're the opposite of easy.