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Title: The Last Beautiful Girl

By: Charlie
Rating: R (for violence and language)
Disclaimer: blah blah blah, whatever. You want my school loans and my crappy... Wait, I just got a new job, so I actually have something to lose now. Right, well then, I don't own the characters or the situations from the show, so please don't sue me, because even with the new job, I'm still basically broke.
Summary: Alex POV, future fic. You can figure out the rest as it goes along.
Spoilers: Through "Viva Las Vegas".
Author's Note: Inspired, in part, by some stories by Nace M., a very cool dude that I don't send nearly enough feedback to. Also inspired by the fact that Alex rocks. Title borrowed from matchbox twenty. Thanx to sihaya for being an eternal source of inspiration. The MIT bit was entirely due to Dani's wonky emails.
Improv #1: red, crash, hollow, shudder



1

I remember the very instant that I fell in love with my wife. I remember looking up and seeing her, really seeing her, for the first time. I'd known her for a long time by then. When I try to think about why it took me so long to notice just how much we had in common or why I allowed myself to be influenced by other people's opinions of her for so many years, I hate myself for the reasons I come up with, because they are shallow and cruel and don't fit with the kind of person I normally am.

She always notices, of course, just like she notices all of the subtle changes in my mood. I'll start to brood over it and she'll press her body, warm and soft, against mine and chide me for being too hard on myself. "It only matters that we did find each other," she'll say. "The hows and whys don't count." Her voice caresses my soul, I lose myself in her eyes, and I believe her. Until the next time. But it hasn't been happening as often lately and she says that's a good sign.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way; we are not supposed to be together. She was made, literally, to be with someone else. In a way, so was I. The first time things fell apart, they came only partially back together and I think the people left over got mixed up somehow. Every once in a while, I catch Liz looking at us oddly and I know she's wondering how things wound up exactly the way they did. But then she smiles and her eyes grow warm and I know that she's just happy that I finally found someone to love that loves me in return.

Which is not a small thing, given my history. Maria likes to joke that someone should put me in the Guinness Book of World Records under "Suffered the Most Broken Hearts Without Having an Actual Relationship." I like to reply that she would then have to be nominated for "Most Broken Hearts Suffered At the Hands of the Same Person."

My first broken heart came at Liz's hands, actually. When I first moved here, I had the world's biggest crush on her. Unfortunately for me, she was far more interested in Brian Harris, the poet-laureate of our fourth grade class. I hadn't worked up the nerve to speak to her yet, but after pining for her for most of the year, I had decided to finally make my move. I thought a heartfelt Valentine would do the trick quite nicely. Nothing flashy, just something to demonstrate my affection. Needless to say, I was completely outclassed by Brian's personalized love poem. In a way, I suppose, winding up as Liz's friend prepared me for what came later.

My second broken heart was completely Maria's fault. She will deny that to her dying day, but it's the truth. We were in seventh grade by then. I was twelve and my hormones were developing at full throttle. I had the hots for this lovely young woman named Jessica Mann. She was tall for her age, with long straight blond hair that was the color of pale gold and eyes like the brightest emeralds. I guess you could say that I started early with the tall blondes.

Anyway, the reason I blame Maria was that I had no intention whatsoever of confessing to Jessica how I felt about her. I was perfectly content to gaze longingly at her four periods a day. Maria, however, managed to convince me that Jessica had picked me to tutor her in Pre-Algebra because she was attracted to me as well. It was only after I'd been brutally shot down that Liz pointed out to Maria that the tutoring assignments had been arranged by Mr. Hammond.

There were a couple of other minor crushes and subsequent let-downs, but the instant that Isabel Evans walked into my freshman World Cultures class, I only had eyes for her. There was just something about her that pulled me in. She was beautiful, of course. Gorgeous. An absolute goddess. And every guy at West Roswell knew it. I won't say that I didn't notice her physical beauty. It was impossible not to, but once I was able to see past that, I noticed glimmers of this other person. This softer, warmer person and that was the one I really wanted to get to know.

By that point, however, I'd learned my lesson. I'm not a stupid guy and getting smacked down two or three or six times was more than enough for me to get the message. Unfortunately, I am still a guy and so held out hope that somehow things would be miraculously different this time around. Guys are nothing if not hopelessly optimistic when it comes to women.

The amazing thing was, something miraculous did happen. Whether it was fate or circumstance or some roll of the cosmic dice, I will never know. But Isabel and I were thrown together and I was given the chance I'd always wanted to get to know her heart and mind instead of just her face. Even more remarkable than that was the fact that she actually did let me in. Hesitantly at first, always ready to throw up her guard at the slightest hint that I might cause her pain. Eventually though, she realized that I wasn't going to hurt her and we started to really trust each other.

In retrospect, that was probably a mistake on my part. I should have known that someone who'd spent most of her life hiding behind a fašade of cool detachment would have a hard time being completely open with another person. I think I'm a pretty patient guy, generally speaking, and I would have been more than willing to wait for her because I knew that in the end, she'd be worth it. What I couldn't tolerate were the endless humiliations she made me suffer through while I was waiting for her to come around.

If I had been smart, I would have taken the very first hint that came my way. Unfortunately, of course, I didn't do that, because while I may be of above-average intelligence, I am, as mentioned, very much a guy. And guys are... Well, frankly speaking, we're kind of slow on the uptake when the situation involves a woman for whom we have romantic feelings. So even though I was genuinely pissed off when I thought Isabel had tried to seduce me into not telling Valenti what I knew about Max, I forgave her once I found out the circumstances. I wasn't wrong to forgive her, because I had mostly misunderstood her intentions, but maybe it wasn't the brightest choice to try to get involved with her after that.

I knew something was wrong that day she pulled me into the Eraser Room. Aside from the fact that she was acting strangely, there was also her haste. Isabel is an intensely deliberate person, especially when it comes to her heart. She does not jump into things lightly or quickly. She considers them long and hard before she takes any kind of action. So I knew right from the start that our impromptu make-out session was not entirely about her feelings for me. True, she'd been warming to me for a while by then. She'd leaned on me when Topolsky showed up and everything started to go haywire. She'd even allowed me to comfort her when her rock-solid brother started to act in ways that were completely out of character for him. Even if I did sort of want to pound on him at the time for betraying one of my best friends. But kissing and groping? That was way beyond where we should have been at that point and I knew it.

Even so, I didn't turn away from her. Partially, it was that I was secretly thrilled that she'd turned to me as her coping mechanism for whatever was going on. It made me feel special -- needed -- to know that of all the people in her life, it was me she'd sought out, me that she trusted enough to lean on. I guess I was also of a mind that I'd be able to stay inside once she'd opened the door.

I will admit I was angry when Maria told me what was really going on with Michael and the dreams. But there was also a part of me that was still high on the notion that of all the guys she could have turned to to help her burn her misplaced lust, I was the one she picked. I honestly believed that that meant something. She could have had any male in the entire school and she chose me. That's a pretty heady thought for a guy like me.

Sadly, it didn't last. Liz left Max and Michael broke up with Maria and Isabel took that as her cue to beat a hasty retreat from our budding relationship as well. I knew that meant I was going to have to go back to being endlessly patient, but that was okay with me. Like I said, I was convinced that she was worth it. I thought I could even tolerate the repeated speeches about us being just friends, but to be perfectly honest, those got really old, really fast. Still, I was willing to wait for her to come around again. For some insane reason, I had faith that she eventually would.

Boy, was I ever wrong.