Disclaimer: I only own my original characters.
Summary: Mark and Lexie visit Max at college.
If you take the time to read, I would really appreciate it if you took the time to comment. Thank you and enjoy!
“You’re practically bouncing,” Lexie Sloan can’t help but laugh as she stands, stretching her arms, and Mark Sloan, her husband, reaches above in the overhead compartment for their bags.
“I do not bounce,” he does his best to scowl but Lexie is smiling and he leans in and kisses her instead.
“You can bounce if you want. I think it’s sweet,” she rubs a hand on his arm. “She’s missed you, too.”
“It’s only been two months since we dropped her off,” Mark reminds her as the door to the plane opens and the flight attendants flash them smile, thanking them for flying Southwest. They are two of the first passengers off due to their first class tickets and as they walk up the ramp, Mark takes hold of her hand as always and Lexie links their fingers together as always. “And it isn’t as if we don’t talk. She calls home every day. She emails, you send her money-”
Lexie smiles. “I miss her, too. The house is so empty. I know Sam and Ellie live nearby and Ally comes home all of the time but… Max is-”
“Max,” Mark finishes for her and she nods, smiling and squeezing his hand.
“Exactly,” she says. “I just can’t wait until she comes home next month for Thanksgiving and the whole family will be together again.”
They walk through the LAX airport, passing other boarding gates, trying not to look like they are hurrying towards the security checkpoint but both know that they’re too anxious to not hurry. It is October and Max has been at USC in LA for her freshman year of college since August, enrolled in their School of Medicine as she studies pre-med. Mark and Lexie can not be more proud of her. Max has always had to work and study harder than her siblings when it came to school but she never gives up and she has been wanting to be a doctor since she was three-years-old. Every day, she calls and chatters excitedly about her classes and though she sounds tired from studying and trying to keep herself from being buried in work, she never says that she thinks she can’t do this. She is doing this and she’s a Sloan. Sloans don’t understand the meaning of quitting.
“There she is,” Lexie grabs Mark’s arm, gripping it with excitement.
Max is waiting for them just on the other side of the security checkpoint, that wide bright smile of hers that takes over her entire face already formed and Mark and Lexie have missed that smile so much even though they can practically hear it from over the phone when they talk every day on the phone. She is nearly bouncing on her toes, just as obviously excited as Lexie is to see her parents after two months of being separated.
She is wearing blue jeans with frayed bottoms from dragging on the floor paired with her black and white Converse sneakers and a vintage Rolling Stones tee-shirt layered over a long sleeve white tee-shirt that was pushed to her elbows. Her skin is tan, her normally sandy colored curly hair is lighter due to the constant exposure to the sun and she wears a collection of bracelets on each wrist. She looks happy and like such a California girl and though Mark had reservations about her going so far away for college because this is his Max, he sees her now and he smiles.
“Mommy!” Max exclaims and Lexie laughs. Lexie hurries and Max runs and they collide in a crash of bodies and arms, hugging one another tightly.
“Oh, Maxi, I missed you so much,” Lexie says, their bodies rocking side to side as they hug. “How are you?”
“Great!” Max beams once they pull apart and she means it. “So, so great. I have so much to tell you and show you and… daddy!” She then exclaims as if she just sees Mark for the first time standing back to give her and Lexie room. She bolts to him and Mark grins, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her, lifting her so her feet dangled above the ground, and her arms squeezed around his neck like always.
She may be turning nineteen – Jesus, nineteen already – at the end of this month but she is still his baby girl and he can still easily pick her up.
“I missed you, dad,” Max whispers and Mark squeezes his arms, not needing to say it back. When he puts her back down, they begin walking towards the escalators that lead down to the baggage claim, Max walking between them, holding onto Lexie’s hand as if she is still just a smile child. “Why do you have to stay all of the way in Santa Monica?”
“Because your mom loves Santa Monica,” Mark answers.
“Besides, you don’t want us staying near you,” Lexie smiles. “I doubt it’s cool for your parents to be hanging around your dorm.”
Max shakes her head. “Like I care about things like that. It’s the weekend. I have to study but maybe… maybe I could study while sitting on the beach with you?” She suggests.
Lexie keeps smiling. “I think your father and I could stand if you were around us for the weekend,” she replies and Max beams. “Your dad is doing his taping tomorrow so you and me will have most of the day for the pier and beach.”
“Great,” Mark grumbles. “I’m going to be stuck working while you two are having fun.”
“Yep,” Max and Lexie say at the same time, throwing identical smiles at him, and he narrows his eyes at them both.
Max steps ahead to go down the escalator first and her long hair is thrown over one shoulder, exposing the back of her neck. Lexie gasps and Mark feels his jaw clench.
“Maxine Elizabeth Sloan, what the hell is on the back of your neck?” Mark demands and now, Max gasps and slaps a hand over it as if she has just remembered what’s back there.
She spins around to stare at her parents, her eyes wide, her mouth open, and her mind scrambles to explain. Mark pulls them out of the way so they aren’t blocking the escalator and then turning Max around, he removes her hand so he and Lexie can see.
“Oh my god,” Lexie murmurs.
Mark swipes his thumb across the marking of the half green apple.
“It’s real, dad,” Mark says softly, bowing her head forward.
Mark feels blood beginning to roar in his ears – never a good sign. “We send you off to college and in two months, you get a tattoo?” He nearly shouts.
Max spins around to face him and he recognizes the fire in her brown eyes. He probably has the same look in his. “It’s just a tattoo, dad. It’s not like you found me shooting up!”
“Max,” Lexie says, her voice far more gentle. She’s always been the voice of reason to Mark’s temper. “Why did you get that?” She tries to understand.
“And don’t you dare say because it’s cool,” Mark quickly snaps.
“It’s the Beatles Apple logo,” Max explains. “I love the Beatles.”
“I love fried chicken but you don’t see me getting a drumstick slapped on me for all time!” Mark exclaims and Lexie puts a hand on his arm, a silent gesture to tell him that he needs to shut up and be calm.
“Max…” Lexie begins to say though she isn’t sure what to say. She supposes her mind is kind of in shock over the half green apple tattoo on the back of her daughter’s neck.
“I like it and it’s my body,” Max says, crossing her arms over her chest. “It’s just a tattoo.”
Mark smirked, shaking his head, crossing his own arms over his chest. “I can’t wait until you’re fifty with that stupid apple on the back of your neck.”
“Mom has always joked about getting a tattoo and you’ve never told her that they’re stupid,” Max is growing more upset, feeling the beginning of tears sting her eyes. “And what about Brandon? He has tons of tattoos and you let him marry Ellie.”
“You are my daughter,” Mark snaps.
“Okay,” Lexie claps her hands once sharply, making both of them look at her. “Mark,” she looks at her husband. “You know how much I love causing scenes in public places but let’s get our bags and then Max can drive us to her dorm so she can pack a bag and then we can go to Santa Monica. I want to take a shower and then you have to feed me.”
Mark looks at her for a moment and then glances at Max. “Keep your neck covered.”
Max sighs heavily, rolling her eyes, before stomping away towards the escalator again. Lexie turns towards Mark but before she can say a word, he does.
“Don’t you dare tell me that you’re alright with this,” he is about to blow.
“Of course I’m not alright with it,” Lexie shakes her head. “But it’s a little late, isn’t it? She got a tattoo, tattoos are permanent, hence stop yelling at her.” Mark stares at her, his jaw clenched, the muscles in his face twitching. Lexie goes to him, standing on her toes so their eyes are even and she wraps her arms around his neck. “Let’s go get our bags and get to the hotel. I’m starving,” she said.
Mark continues to stare at her and slowly, his hands go to her hips. “I’m not happy.”
She nods, almost smiling. “I know. But tonight, I’ll stroke your hair until you feel better.”
That doesn’t cease his scowl though. “With her in the hotel room with us, my hair’s the only thing you’ll be able to stroke.”
Lexie does laugh at that and she gives him a quick kiss. “Don’t let her tattoo ruin our weekend. You missed her and you’re happy to see her despite the way you’re acting.”
“Don’t let her know that,” Mark grumbles and Lexie smiles, kissing him again.
The dorm room is small with two lofted beds on either side of the room with their desks underneath. There are also two dressers and two wardrobes to serve as closets as well as a large window that overlooks another dorm next to theirs. Max is rooming with a girl named Sally, who is from Houston, and is majoring in accounting. Max’s side of the room is neat just as her bedroom at home always is. Stacks of textbooks are on her desk along with highlighters, spiral notebooks and pens with teeth-marks in the caps from where she has bitten them while studying. Her bed is neatly made and her polar bear, Simon, with his missing eye from years of being loved and a constant companion, is sitting on top of her pillow. Covering the walls on her side of the room are posters of bands – mostly The Beatles, one for The Rolling Stones, one for Led Zeppelin and a couple for bands that Mark has never heard of.
“Where’s Sally, Max?” Lexie asks as she naturally straightens her daughter’s bedspread.
Max has taken a gym bag from the floor of her wardrobe and is now going through her dresser drawers, deciding what she wants to take while staying with her parents for the weekend. “Um… I’m not sure,” she shakes her head.
“How is everything going with her?” Mark asks as he curiously flips through one of her textbooks. Chemistry. He knows how difficult a time Max had with high school chemistry so he can just imagine how it is at a college level. She hasn’t talked about it though. Maybe she’ll say something this weekend.
“Good,” Max nods. “I actually lucked out with a roommate. Sally’s really nice and we have movie night at least once a week together. She studies a lot, too, like me. Joe’s is an absolute nightmare so he’s usually having to hide out in other people’s rooms.”
“Joe?” Mark lifts his head looking at her and Max sighs softly, grabbing a couple of hooded sweatshirts from her wardrobe.
“I do go to a coed college, dad, and live in a coed dorm. I have met boys here,” she says.
Lexie shoots Mark a warning look.
Max is quiet for a moment and then she turns to face both of her parents. “I didn’t want to tell you,” she says suddenly.
“Tell us what, sweetie?” Lexie says gently, having a feeling already as to what Max is going to say. Mark rarely picks up on things like this but Lexie is a mom and she just understands her daughters more than their father. She was a teenage girl once, after all, herself. Lexie has picked up on how often Max mentions this Joe during their phone conversations every day with one another.
“Joe…” Max takes a deep breath. “Joe’s my boyfriend.”
The room is silent and Mark stares at her. Max slowly lifts her eyes to look at him. He shakes his head slightly as if he is trying to clear his thoughts. Max has never had a boyfriend before. In high school, she was popular and had dozens of friends but she had never dated any of the guys that hung around. Max is a beautiful young woman – all of his daughters are, he knows that – and he spent many hours trying to keep boys away from all three of his daughters. He had lucked out for the most part. The only one who ever really gave any problems when she was a teenager was, surprisingly, Ellie.
“You need to be concentrating on your studies,” Mark frowns.
“Dad… I study all of the time,” Max says. “That’s all I do. And Joe gets that.”
Mark does his hardest not to wince as she uses his name so freely. “Max-”
“What’s he like?” Lexie asks curiously. She knows that Max had gotten asked out dozens of times in high school but just had always refused, saying that she had to focus on school. And now, in college, she is working even harder to maintain a grade point average worthy of a medical school. Joe must really be something if she is dating him.
Max turns towards her desk and along with pictures of the Sloan family, there is one picture, newly framed. She hands it to Lexie and Mark goes to look at it as well. It seems to be taken at a club of sorts. Max is wearing blue jeans and a tank top with a bright smile on her face and there is a guy standing next to her – tall and lanky – with shaggy brown hair. One arm is around her shoulders while the other is holding an acoustic guitar.
“Oh Jesus, is he in a band?” Mark feels a migraine coming on.
This is too much. First, she has a tattoo. Now, she has a boyfriend. What next? He had come to Los Angeles with Lexie for the weekend, both for work and to see their daughter but this isn’t Max. Too many things have changed about her and he doesn’t know if he likes it. He understands that she’s eighteen and in college and she is experimenting and having fun but he doesn’t want her to change. What was wrong with Seattle Max? He thinks Seattle Max was pretty damn perfect.
“Yes, he’s in a band,” Max nods and Lexie smiles faintly, looking at her daughter’s smile in the picture. Max has always had the most beautiful, bright smile. “But he also goes to school, dad. At USC, just like me. He’s studying chemistry. I met him in class and he helps me. You know how hard it is for me with chemistry.”
“So, he’s teaching you,” Lexie says. “That sometimes works out for people.”
Mark shoots her a look but she only smiles at him.
“Max…”Mark sighs heavily.
“He’s a really nice guy, dad. You would like him,” Max says.
“I’m sure he is, Max,” Lexie says. “We would love to meet him.”
Max bursts into a smile. “Really?”
“Of course,” Lexie nods and Mark scowls at his wife.
“I’m ready to go,” Max says, slinging her bag onto her shoulder and then going to her desk, shoving textbooks and notebooks into her messenger bag, also slinging that onto her shoulder. “Dad, Joe’s from New York and he’s a Yankees fan,” she smiles.
Mark raises an eyebrow at her and she keeps smiling.
“Great,” he grunts as she grabs Simon and then leads them from her dorm, making sure that the door is locked behind them. “So when you two get married, you’ll be moving to New York then.”
Max blinks at him before looking at Lexie. “I’m marrying Joe?”
Lexie rolls her eyes, smiling. “You know how your father is, Max. Just go with it,” she advises.
They check into their hotel which is right across the street from Santa Monica Pier and they then go to eat at an Italian restaurant along the Pacific Coast highway. Max talks and talks about college and her classes and how nervous she is about the “weeding out” classes though Mark and Lexie assure her that she is going to do fine. Mark and Lexie talk about work and their shared private practice and about the family: Ally, who has just gotten married to her husband, Henry Barber, during the summer, Ellie and her husband, Brandon, and their two children – Chris and Lily – and Sam, his girlfriend, Meg, and their baby daughter, Emily.
Afterwards, they walk down the beach across from their hotel, Max abandoning her flip-flops to run in the surf, laughing to herself as the waves crashed in front of her. Mark stands with one arm around Lexie’s shoulders and his other hand in his pocket, keeping a close eye on Max as they walk.
“How are you doing?” Lexie asks, tilting her head up to look at him.
“Well…” he takes a deep breath and Max’s laughter echoes as she chases after wave before racing back into the sand. “Do you remember when she was little and she made me carry her around everywhere? Or when she was into those pageants we threw for her at home and she would wear that pink tutu and tiara everywhere? Or when she would crawl into my lap, wanting to play or read?”
“Technically, you can still do all of those things,” Lexie offers. “No matter how awkward it would look.”
She’s teasing him and he knows it and he smirks, shaking his head.
“And now… she’s living in L.A. with a boyfriend and a tattoo,” Mark says and Lexie’s arm is around his waist, giving him a squeeze.
“She’s not living with her boyfriend, Mark,” she corrects him. “And she still adores you. She’s still your little girl.”
“No, she isn’t,” Mark shakes his head sadly. “She’s grown up.”
“It’s happened to all of our children eventually,” she says. “Except Sam,” she adds and succeeds in getting Mark to smile.
Back in the hotel room, it’s almost nine o’clock and Lexie is exhausted from running around all day. After she changes into her pajamas, she crawls into bed, between the crisp, cold sheets and she exhales contently, laying down. Mark is sitting up next to her, the television on mute and his laptop open in his lap, checking emails and preparing himself for tomorrow. When the E! network films specials about plastic surgery in Hollywood, Mark is one of their go-to guests for interviews. Tomorrow, he will be interviewed about addiction to plastic surgery and stars who have had too much work done to themselves. Same old, same old in Mark’s opinion but he still prepares himself.
Max comes out of the bathroom, wearing a yellow bikini and hugging one of the white hotel towels to her chest. “I’m going to go swimming in the pool downstairs,” she says.
“Have fun, Maxi. Be careful,” Lexie throws out her usual motto and Max smiles, coming around to the side of the bed.
“Good night, mom,” she leans down and she and Lexie kiss one another on the cheek.
“You’re okay going down there by yourself?” Mark asks, trying to ignore the fact that his daughter is wearing a bikini.
Max smiles, nodding. “Yep. I’m a big girl,” she says, meaning to make a joke but it pierces Mark in the chest and he manages to give her a small smile before looking back down at his computer screen.
When the door clicks in its frame and Max has left, he sighs heavily and sets his laptop aside. Lexie rolls onto her side, facing him, and rests a hand on his chest. Neither say anything for a minute or two as he stares up at the ceiling and she stares at him.
“I love you,” Lexie whispers.
He covers her hand with his. “I love you, too.”
“You know how Max is. She’ll be swimming for a while,” Lexie inched closer to him and under the covers, she runs her foot up his leg. “We have the room all to ourselves and I believe I promised you a stroking.”
The words barely leave her mouth before Mark has rolled them over, pinning her onto her back with him on top of her. She laughs and he smiles before lowering his head and kissing her.
“No matter what,” Lexie says, brushing her knuckles against his cheek. “You’ll always have me,” she finishes in a whisper.
“Why do you think I plan on dying first?” Mark smirks.
She pinches his shoulder. “Don’t talk like that.”
He kisses the frown away from her lips and when they break apart a few minutes later, they’re both breathless but smiling.
“Let’s make another baby. One that won’t grow up,” he then suggests and Lexie bursts out laughing. He only grins though when she tells him that he’s crazy and he kisses her again.