Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Liz/Tess
Spoilers: Max in the City
Author's Note: Part 2 of the planned 4-part "Open" series (Part 1 = Eyes Open). Liz and Tess continue to get closer.
Someone was trying to get her attention, but she was concentrating on setting down a number of heavily laden dishes without spilling anything.
"I'm sorry, your order will just be another minute, I pro-"
Liz looked up then, blushing a little when she saw Tess standing behind her.
"Oh, hi Tess, sorry. I'm going to have to cancel. It's just," she waved her arm around the busy diner. "We're swamped! Or rather, *I'm* swamped! Andie didn't show up and I sent Maria home sick." Even as she apologized, Liz wiped down the next table over, dropped off an order at the counter and picked up a load of dishes on a now-empty tray to take to the kitchen. She flashed a grateful smile when Tess held the door for her.
Warmed by her appreciation, Tess spoke before thinking. "Can I help?"
Liz came out from the kitchen with two orders and a startled look on her face. She froze for a moment, clearly trying to assess whether Tess was serious.
"Really?" Her voice shone with hope and relief.
Tess immediately felt glad that she'd offered. Besides, how bad could it be? You didn't need a degree to work in a diner. And she really didn't want to go see a movie by herself.
Nodding confidently, she smiled brightly. "Sure! What do you need me to do?"
Liz placed the orders before some customers before responding. "Well, what I really need is someone to keep things moving, you know, clear tables as soon as possible after customers leave, wipe down spills, maybe bring out some orders or drink refills from the counter while I'm making change or taking orders. Does that sound okay?" She asked carefully, sounding worried that Tess would turn tail and run.
Her smile had faded slightly but the blonde girl nodded gamely.
How bad could it be?
"I have been to hell, and it's a service industry!" Tess exclaimed, collapsing into a booth.
Liz couldn't help but chuckle. She was tired, but knew that it could have been a lot worse. She finished placing the last chairs on top of tables and began mopping the slightly sticky floor.
"And how do you put up with all the perverts?" Tess continued, looking down at the turquoise and silver uniform she'd borrowed. It was slightly snug, and she'd had to reinforce some of the snaps with safety pins. She took the time to remove them now, carefully, one by one.
Liz paused for a moment, concerned. "Tess, did someone - do something?"
Tess looked puzzled for a moment, then shook her head. "No," she clarified, "I just meant all the guys who stare and call you those stupid names."
"What," Liz pretended surprise as she resumed mopping; "you mean you *don't* respond to such terms of endearment as 'honeycakes' and 'sugarlips'?" Tess giggled a little to hear Liz's imitation of some of the jerks that thrived on greasy food.
"And the way they stare," she marvelled. "How do you do this all the time - and in these uniforms? They're kind of - revealing, aren't they?" She tugged at the hem of her borrowed uniform self-consciously.
Liz looked at her in amusement. "Well first of all, I'm used to it. And second," she coughed lightly, "not all of us fill out our uniforms the way you do."
Her mouth quirked as the other girl looked down, startled, then up at her with wide eyes. "I can't believe you just said that!" Tess said, laughing.
"What, that you fill out a - a uniform - or that I don't?" Liz asked.
"Well, both!" Tess responded. "And besides, you do so," she added, enjoying her newfound sense of unity. "Nicely." Liz rolled her eyes but smiled.
They looked up as Michael walked out of the kitchen. He raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything.
"Heading home?" Liz asked companionably. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, but nodded. "See you tomorrow," she said, and Tess waved as he headed for the door. "Later, Michael!" He lifted one hand in response and headed out, automatically checking that the door closed and locked behind him before heading into the night.
Suddenly both girls became acutely aware that they were alone in the building.
"Well, I guess I should get home, then," Tess said as Liz put the mop away. They walked together into the back room to change.
"Is anyone picking you up?" Liz asked as she pulled apart the snaps along the front of her uniform, looking up and smiling as she heard Tess do the same. "Nice," she commented casually, noting the rather lacy material that restrained Tess's assets.
"Thanks," Tess said. "Yours looks a lot more comfortable, though," she admitted, looking covetously at Liz's practical cotton as she readjusted a strap. "Oh," she said, as an afterthought, "Jim and Kyle are away on some father-son thing."
Liz paused, then gathered their soiled uniforms to stuff into a hamper as she thought about that. And she eyed the couch where Tess was sitting. It was the same one Ava had slept on.
"Where'd they go?" she asked, as they dressed.
"Camping. They'll be back Monday." It was Saturday.
"Do you want to stay here? My parents are away for the weekend too."
Tess took a moment to think. "I'd like that," she said, somewhat surprising both girls.
They finished dressing in silence.
"So you have a choice. You can stay in my parents' room, on the pull-out couch in the living room, or my room."
Tess thought for a moment. "It doesn't really matter. Whatever you have has *got* to be more comfortable than Kyle's bed!" she joked, pretending to rub her back.
"Tell me about it," Liz agreed without thinking, then froze. Tess would probably assume something other than the truth, that Liz once took a nap one afternoon when she and Kyle were dating almost two years earlier. "Uh, I mean-"
"You don't have to explain to me," Tess said sincerely, and Liz looked at her in wonder and relief.
"Thanks. Anyway, you can decide later. Do you want some pyjamas?" Nodding, Tess followed Liz into her room. Thinking about how nice it was to be invited in.
"No way." Tess protested, eyes wide and round in disbelief. Without thinking, she tossed the pint of Haagan Das at Liz, who caught it neatly and helped herself to a generous scoop. They were sitting across from each other on Liz's bed.
"Uh-huh." Liz half-sang airily, waving about her vanilla-covered spoon for emphasis. "I, Liz Parker, have a criminal record!"
"I don't believe it," the other girl said resolutely. Liz couldn't even lie her way into a casino with a fake id; what could she *possibly* have done?
"Really!" Liz assured her. "Alex and I were arrested at a rave, with alcohol, and the Sheriff talked our parents into leaving us in jail overnight."
"Jim did that?" Tess asked, her certainty faltering in the face of Liz's conviction. This was a new side to the man she'd begun to think of as a father.
"Yeah. This was before he knew for sure about you guys, and he kept pushing to find out more. I think he thought Alex was going to be the weak link, but Alex? He was amazing. Told the Sheriff what was what, and we were out of there like *that*!" she said, snapping her fingers.
Tess was silent for a moment. So Liz did know how to have fun, Jim hadn't always been protective, and there was more to Alex than met the eye. And living with Kyle well, she was beginning to see a different side to the humans she knew - all of them - and it was a lot to think about.
"What about Kyle and Maria?" she asked. "Tell me how you see them."
Liz studied Tess's face and thought about her best friend and first boyfriend and what they meant to her. "Well, they saved our butts from the wipeout, but I can't say that surprises me that much. They're both pretty resourceful. And " she swallowed, a sudden lump in her throat making it a little harder for the ice cream to go down.
She coughed slightly and continued. "Maria's simply the best. I mean, I know I freaked a little what with her getting so friendly with Max over the summer, but really, she's always been there for me, you know?" Tess nodded encouragingly. "And Kyle he's just well, he's a better friend than I had any right to expect."
"What do you mean?" Tess asked, baffled by Liz's expression.
"I once asked him to do something, and he did it. No questions asked. Well, you know, he asked questions, but he didn't push. Some day I'll have to tell him what he did for me, for all of us," Liz mused, lost in her own thoughts.
Tess was confused, but decided that could wait. She didn't want to do anything to ruin this, this rapport they were building. It was too fragile. Still she paused, and took a deep breath. She had thought of something that shouldn't wait.
Something about her tone alerted Liz, made her focus. "Yeah?"
Tess chewed her lip, trying to think about how to say it. "I don't " and she took a deep breath, and tried again. "I think " Her voice trailed off. She knew that once she said it, there was no going back.
"Tess?" Liz encouraged, although her stomach twisted into knots at the thought of what could make the other girl react so. Making eye contact, Liz urged, "Just say it. Whatever it is."
"I'm over Max." It came out in a rush. "I'm ready to move on."
Liz looked like a deer caught in headlights. "Tess," she said, and her voice was unnaturally even, as thought she was trying too hard not to overreact to something. "It's okay now. You can stay here."
Tess looked at Liz, a little bewildered. Not only was this not the reaction she was expecting, but it didn't make any sense. Literally.
"Liz? I know that. You already invited me. Or what exactly are you talking about?"
"Don't leave, Tess. Okay? Just - you have to stay." Liz sounded almost frantic now.
A little scared, Tess reached out to grasp Liz's hand. Firmly, to get her attention. "I'm not going anywhere," she said gently. "I'm staying right here with you. Tonight and tomorrow."
"Huh?" Liz answered, finally realizing that they were talking about two very different things. "But but " But, she asked herself, were they really?
"All I said was that I'm over Max Evans. But I'm not going anywhere. Where did you think I was going?" Tess laughed. She had an infectious laugh, and after a while Liz relaxed and smiled too.
"I'm glad," she said, simply.
Tess just squeezed her hand again, then grabbed the Haagan Das for another taste.
"Thanks," she said, as she dug in.
"For what?" Liz asked, still a little unsure about what had just happened here, but feeling immeasurably better nonetheless. Tess was going to stay.
"For saving me some ice cream," Tess joked. And then, feeling slightly ridiculous, she confided: "You know, I love the sweet and spicy thing, really I do. But when it comes to ice cream? There's just something about vanilla. It's like it has all this possibility, because there's so much you can do with it. Anything goes with it."
Liz just grinned. "Tell me about it." But her face fell as she heard Tess's spoon scrape the bottom of the carton.
Tess looked up apologetically. "Sorry," she said, and she was. She had been the one to pull out the container while Liz grabbed the spoons, and she knew this had been the only one.
Liz just shrugged reassuringly, and Tess relaxed. "Don't worry about it, there's plenty more downstairs," she said, already anticipating a raid into the large storage freezer. "You just didn't see it before."
Tess looked at her. "There's a lot I didn't see before," she said, her tone serious.
Liz didn't bother pretending not to understand. "It's important to keep an open mind, I guess," she said, just as solemnly
Then, eyes twinkling, she shoved Tess playfully, who wasn't expecting it and fell off the bed.
Spluttering, Tess looked up at her from the floor. "What'd you do that for?"
A little ashamed about being so childish, Liz shrugged and leaned down to help the other girl up.
"Sor-" she started to apologize, but suddenly found their positions reversed and stared with mouth open as Tess ran out of the room giggling furiously.
Immediately Liz was on her feet and racing in pursuit. "Hey!" she shouted, following the sound of laughter along the hall and downstairs, where she slammed into Tess at the bottom and almost knocked her over.
"Whoa, there," Tess joked breathlessly, steadying Liz with one hand.
"Why'd," Liz panted, "you stop?"
"I don't know where to go," Tess replied.
Liz pointed, and off they went.
"Ugh," Liz groaned. "If I never see ice cream again ..." her voice trailed off when she couldn't think of anything dire enough.
On the other side of the bed, Tess tried to sit up but couldn't. She started giggling instead, clutching her tummy as it protested the movement.
"What?" Liz asked.
"I don't think I'm going to make it to the couch," Tess sighed. They'd made up the pull-out for her earlier but ended up back in Liz's room to talk, try some hairstyles they found in magazines, and see just how many toppings really could go with vanilla.
"So don't," Liz said, and yawned. Somehow she managed to turn on her side, and pushing an empty container out of the way, looked at Tess.
"Yeah?" Tess answered sleepily. It was warm in here, and she didn't want a blanket. She was ready to just drift off.
"I'm glad you stayed with me."
Tess's eyes flew open and she turned towards Liz, only to find her already asleep. She studied the other girl's features as if seeing them for the first time, memorizing the sight of her at peace.
"Me too," she said.
Return to Part 1 - Eyes Open
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