Disclaimer: These people used to be Katims'. I…well, I don't want to use the word 'stole,' but…dammit, he just wouldn't share! It's not like he's used them lately, and I promise to put them back when I'm done.
A/N: So it's the END! Well, sort of. It took me a ridiculously long time to get here, and I just want to say, you guys, with your patience-of-a-saint having re: my deplorable lack of consistency when it comes to updates, my promise-breaking (I meant next Valentine's Day. Swear.) and my cruel cliffhangery tendencies, plus all your fabulous warm and fuzzy reviews that keep my Inner Review Junkie so well fed, she is getting pudgy…well, y'all rock on with socks on, that's all there is to it. With the massive amounts of incredible fic on this site, hell, in the Roswell section alone, it is a supreme compliment that I've received so many hits, inquiring e-mails, and even new reviews, so many months since my last post, and it's given me the confidence to send the first chapter of my novel (one with characters I actually came up with all by myself!) to some publishers and literary agents. I literally couldn't have done it without you. Thanks. And I promise I'm done with the huge rambly A/Ns! Really! Now then, on with the fic.
"Well, you seem to be feeling better."
Liz pulled away, a pretty blush coloring her cheeks as her gaze moved from Michael to her parents in the doorway. "Hi, Dad."
"Ah, Mr. Parker, I uh…" He winced. He really wanted to say, This isn't what it looks like, but it was exactly what it looked like.
"I told you, call me Jeff." He was grinning. "I know this is a first offense, so we'll leave the meat grinder out of it unless you tell me this isn't what it looks like."
"Uh, Liz?" he said in a low voice, for her ears only. "Does your Dad have the Czechoslovakian mind-reading gene?"
"Not as far as I know," she replied, giggling. "It's a Dad thing."
"Michael, are you going to join us for the holiday?" Nancy Parker asked, watching the two of them hold hands with a smile that could only be described as smug.
Liz saw What holiday? written across Michael's face and murmured, "Crashdown New Year's."
Crashdown New Year's was a Parker family tradition. All the other staff had the night off, and the Parkers ran a bingo game, served a buffet, and had music and dancing for members of the Desert Inn Retirement Community with no family nearby. They had 'midnight' at ten-thirty so everyone could get home early. It was totally cornball, and Michael couldn't think of anything he'd rather do. "Sure."
"We should call Hal and see if he can come up from Tampa," Liz suggested.
"Actually he, ah, he's visiting his daughter in Barstow. He's going to stop here on his way back, on Saturday."
"It is Saturday, Michael," Liz reminded him gently.
"Oh. Right. I should call him."
"Help me get out of here first?"
"Lizzie, you know what the doctors said. Until we have an explaination-"
"Dad, really, I'm okay. I feel fine, I'm just tired of the nurses waking me up every two hours and I want to sleep in my own bed. Please."
"She really does look a lot better, Jeff," Nancy pointed out.
"I already missed bowling, Mom. I don't want to be in here for New Year's, too."
"Bowling?" Michael repeated blankly.
"League night?" Liz prompted. "Clash of the Titans? Meta-Chem vs. Tony's Garage? I was really looking forward to it. I was gonna make cookies and everything."
"Oh, God, the guys are gonna kill me," Michael moaned.
"It's only eight-thirty. You can still make it."
He leaned his forehead against hers. "I'll tell them my girlfriend was in the hospital. They'll understand."
"You mean, you'll tell them your girlfriend was getting out of the hospital, right?" she prompted, watching her parents expectantly.
He sighed, shrugged, scuffed at the floor with one toe. "We'll talk to your doctor, okay? He should be doing final rounds in a couple of minutes. We'll see what he says."
"I'll get my stuff." Liz swung her legs off the bed, then paused. "Um, Michael?"
"Maybe you could go call Hal, make sure he got in all right?"
"I'll wait until we get you out of here."
"Michael. I'm wearing a hospital gown." Seeing that he still didn't get it, she suggested gently, "You could maybe step out for five minutes while I change into something a little less backless."
"Right. I'll, ah, I'll go call Hal."
Liz bit her lip on a smile. "That's a good idea."
"Okay. I'll be right back." He started to stand, glanced at the Parkers, then muttered, "Hell with it," and kissed her goodbye.
Liz was still a little shaky, more, she thought, due to worry and interrupted sleep than anything else. But she was able to change into a pair of jeans and a sweater without help, and she didn't get a head rush tieing her sneakers.
The doctor reluctantly admitted that she was perfectly healthy now, and that there was no medical need for a specialist other than curiousity. When Liz insisted on being discharged, he aknowledged that the sudden anemia and fainting spell could be attributed to a couple of heavy menstrual cycles and working a shift at the Crashdown without eating breakfast first.
"I'm okay now, and that's what counts. Right?"
"Thanks, Dr. Barnes. I'll see you later." Liz picked up her backpack, Michael relieved her of it with a warning frown, and she was on her way out the door.
"Bed rest!" The doctor called after her. "And remember to take those iron supplements!"
"I will! Bye!"
A half-hour later, Michael came out of the Crashdown kitchen to find Liz opening packages of streamers and cardboard cutouts covered in gold foil. "This doesn't look like bed rest."
"I have to get the decorations up for New Year's," she explained, climbing up on a table with a handful of pushpins. "Mom and Dad always do the food, and I do the decorations."
"I don't think so. Not this year." He lifted her, his hands almost spanning her waist, and set her back on the ground. "Keep your parents occupied upstairs for a half-hour before the party, and I'll put the decorations up."
"But I don't know where I want everything," she protested.
"Draw me a sketch," he suggested. "From bed."
"Michael Guerin!" she teased.
"Of the decorations, Liz," he stressed. "Show me how you want them placed and I'll do it."
"I really am all right. You know that," she reminded him.
"You really scared me to death, do you know that?" he retorted. "I was the one who got shot, Liz! What happened to you was weird even for us, and until we know what happened, and why, you need to be careful, because I am too young for a heart attack! That means no climbing on tables where you could fall and break your neck!"
She blinked a couple of times. "You yelled at me," she said, astonished.
Way to go, Guerin. Yell at the girl you love for almost dying. "I'm sorry." He scratched at his eyebrow. "I'm just worried, that's all."
"No, Michael, you yelled at me." She started to smile. "You trust me enough to get mad at me sometimes."
Huh? But apparently he'd done something right, so he decided to keep his confusion to himself. "Well, I'm not liking it too much, so maybe you could try not doing anything risky for a couple of days?"
"Sure. I'll just go upstairs and lie down." She kissed his cheek and went into the back.
Michael just shook his head a couple of times. "I will never understand women."
Hal Carver thought it was hilarious that Michael worked at the Crashdown Café. "Son, you mean to tell me that you're spending New Year's serving alien food?"
He grinned. "You think that's crazy? Max works at the UFO Museum."
Hal laughed so hard he had to sit down. "So where's that firecracker of yours?"
"Remember when I told you that whatever was between us, it was over?"
"I'm not senile," he grumbled.
"Well, it's really over. She's in New York."
"Couldn't handle the truth?"
"Something like that." Michael watched as Liz and Jeff set up an old turntable and a few speakers, then set the needle. Big band music started playing, and Michael winced. It wasn't exactly Metallica. But Liz was smiling, bouncing along to the music as she went from table to table saying hello and passing out resolutions for the cactus, wearing a red velvet tank top and a cute jean skirt that was far too short for Michael's peace of mind.
"Who's the dish?" Hal asked, following his gaze.
"That's Liz. My girlfriend," he added, savoring the words and the knowledge that out of all the guys who wanted Liz Parker, she'd picked him.
She'd noticed him noticing her and came over to their table. "Michael, Dad needs help bringing out the entrees, and I'm apparently suddenly incapable of lifting a tray."
"I don't want you carrying anything either. I'll get it."
"You must be Captain Carver," Liz said, smiling at Hal. "It's so good to meet you."
"It's good to meet you too, young lady," Hal replied, standing and extending one hand for her to shake.
Liz drew him into a hug. "Thank you for everything. When you saved them, you saved my life."
"I didn't really do all that much," he muttered, looking down.
"Maybe. But it means a lot to me. Thank you."
Uncomfortable with her gratitude, he suggested, "How about a dance and we'll call it even?"
"Deal," Liz agreed with a smile, accepting his hand as the opening bars of In The Mood filled the room.
Michael came out of the kitchen to see Liz and Hal putting on a rather athletic performance in perfect time to the music. He didn't know who to be worried about first. But when they finished with a flourish, and to warm applause, he decided to let it go. They were both all right, and at least Liz wasn't climbing on tables. "Making time with my girl, Hal?"
"Son, if I was fifty years younger, I'd give you a run for your money. Liz, you're quite the dancer."
"Thank you. So are you." She smiled. "Michael indulges me every once in a while, but he doesn't really like dancing in public."
"Or in private," Michael put in.
"That's a pity, Michael. Pretty girl like her, you should be showing her off."
"And have to beat up every guy in school for looking at her butt? No, thank you." He held out his hand to Liz. "Come on, Parker, dinner is served."
"Michael, I don't think one dance would have every guy in school looking at my butt!" she protested as he handed her a plate at the buffet.
He snorted. "Hah! Do you know how many faces Kyle had to break the summer you were dating?"
She frowned. "He said he and his friends were just messing around."
"Do you know how many times Max caught your little science club study buddies checking you out? It used to drive him nuts. I am not looking forward to getting suspended."
"You won't get suspended because you're not going to fight anybody," she insisted. "I am not Vicky Delaney, and you will not need to defend my honor behind the bleachers after last bell. Everybody at school already thinks we're dating anyway."
"Yes, but now we are, so when Malamud shoots his mouth off I'll have to bust his teeth for it instead of just ignoring him."
"Michael. Malamud's a pig. If you fight with him, he'll just be a pig with broken teeth. I don't care what he says about me, and you shouldn't either. I picked you."
"Why?" he said before he thought, then had one of those aha moments. Months ago, Max had told him that he wasn't good enough for Liz, and it would have ticked him off if he hadn't agreed. Liz had kissed him, had said I love you. The Parkers had welcomed him like an honorary son. But a part of him was waiting for someone to pop out and crow, 'Smile! You're on Candid Camera!' Because it just didn't make sense to him. "Why did you pick me, Liz?"
"Because I'm happy when I'm with you," she replied simply. "Gramma Claudia used to say that I would know the right man when I found him, because he would make my heart smile. Every time I see you. Every time I think about you, even when we've argued…you make my heart smile. I don't know how else to explain it."
"No, that's good," Michael said, still a little mystified, but he could deal with confusion if it was accompanied by this kind of happiness. "That's a good way to explain it."
Liz called bingo numbers. Michael bussed tables. And as they counted down to Crashdown midnight, Liz said, "You know, the way you spend New Year's is supposed to be the way you spend the whole rest of the year."
Since he currently had Liz in his arms while they waited for Jeff to light the cactus, Michael decided he could get behind that. She was singing Auld Lang Syne, and she actually had a good voice. Michael didn't think he'd ever heard her sing before. She wasn't as showy as Maria, just a soft, sweet soprano, a beauty that was only noticed by someone paying attention.
He decided he was going to be the one paying attention. He held on a little tighter and watched as the fire licked at an alien head with the heavy-handed scrawl of a resolution or a vow. To make her heart smile.
A/N: That's all she wrote. Okay, that's a lie. In Your Eyes: The Heat is next.