One Year Ago
"Wait, your Dad took away your trust fund?" Zoey put down her menu and stared at Max. "But I thought you couldn't even access it until you were 30 anyway."
"That's just it, he's decided that since I won't come work for the family business, then I'm not getting anything from the family," Max shrugged his shoulders. "It's not like he took away money that I was using. I just had hoped to be able to use that money to buy a house, maybe start my own tech business."
Zoey reached across the table and squeezed his hand. "I'm so sorry, Max. That's really unfair of your dad to do that. Doesn't he know how amazing you are at your job? How much you enjoy it?"
Max scoffed, "You say that like it matters to my dad, but you know how he is."
Zoey winced, she had met Andrew Richman once when he had been in San Francisco for a business trip. It had been one of the most uncomfortable dinners she had ever been at.
Max felt his phone vibrate and he answered, "Hello?.... Yes, this is Maxwell Richman…. Yes, I can come by….An hour? Okay, see you then."
Zoey looked at him puzzled as he hung up the phone. "Who was that?"
"My lawyer. He says there's something important to discuss with me about the trust. Probably just have to sign something to make it formal. I'm sorry I've got to cut our lunch short, but I need to head over now," Max said grabbing his jacket.
"I'll let Joan know you had an emergency appointment," Zoey said.
"Thanks, Zo, you're a lifesaver," he threw her a smile as he dashed out the cafe door.
Zoey watched as Max slowly walked from the elevators to his desk.
"Max," she called. "Max?" he didn't respond. Zoey stood, walking over to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hello, Earth to Max."
"Huh?" Max turned around and looked at her confused. "Oh hey, Zoey," he mumbled.
Zoey frowned, she grabbed his arm and dragged him to the meditation room.
"Are you okay? What happened with the lawyer?" she looked at him worriedly.
The word lawyer seemed to snap him out of his daze and he began laughing.
Zoey was more than a little concerned now. "So, I take it that you met about more than signing away your trust?"
Max shook his in amusement, "You're not going to believe what happened."
She stood quietly waiting for him to continue.
"Apparently, there is a second trust for me, from my Grandma Miriam," Max began.
"But that's good news, isn't it?" Zoey asked.
"In theory, yes, but Grandma Miriam has a stipulation that has to be fulfilled before I gain access to the trust."
"What, you have to get married or something?" Zoey teased.
"Oh my God, I was joking! You have to get married?!"
"I have to get married. Once I've been married for five years, then I gain access to the trust," Max explained.
"Did it say anything about needing to stay married?"
"No, I asked that too. Once the five years are up and I have the money, that's it."
"Then we find someone for you to marry who understands that it's only a temporary thing. And in five years you get a divorce," Zoey reasoned.
Max laughed, "Oh sure, like that's easy. I'll just start proposing with ‘Hi, would you like to be my wife in name only for 5 years, and then we get divorced? I'll make sure you are compensated at the end of it.’"
"As proposals go, it's hardly romantic, but yes, I'll marry you, Max," Zoey replied.
"I mean who in their right mind….did you just say you would marry me?" Max looked at her in shock.
Zoey shrugged, "I mean, you're my best friend, and you need my help, so why wouldn't I?"
Max was aware that he was staring at her, but he couldn't help himself. His best friend had just agreed to legally bind herself to him for the next five years.
Zoey took his face on her hands, "Max, it's fine. We'll get married, and in five years you'll get your trust and you can make me a partner at your start-up company. Deal?"
Max looked at Zoey, "Are you certain?"
Zoey grinned, "I'm game if you are. We're best friends, how different can being married be?"
San Francisco City Hall
"Do you, Maxwell Richman, take Zoey Clarke, to be your lawful wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live?"
Max looked at the woman standing across from him, his best friend, and the only person willing to do something this insane for him. He grinned, "I do."
The judge nodded and turned to Zoey, "And do you, Zoey Clarke, take Maxwell Richman, to be your lawful wedded husband? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live?"
Zoey smiled at Max, she knew this was a crazy plan, but she would do anything for him, even something as life-changing as getting married. "I do."
"Do you have the rings?"
Max's brother, Lee, handed them to the judge before taking his seat next to his wife Caroline. They had flown out for the ceremony after Max had explained everything to them. Max and Zoey had decided that the fewer people who knew about their marriage the better.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride," the judge said, with a smile at the couple.
Max looked at Zoey who was staring at him slightly flushed and wide-eyed. In all their rush to get everything taken care of, they had forgotten about the kiss.
Zoey bit her lip and nodded slightly at him, letting him know it was okay. He sent her a reassuring smile, after all, what was a simple kiss between best friends?
Zoey swallowed the squeak that threatened to emerge from her, as she felt Max's soft lips pressing against hers. She returned his kiss hesitantly at first, before allowing herself to get lost in the moment.
Max pulled back, gazing at her flushed cheeks and parted lips. He felt himself leaning in for another kiss when Lee and Caroline began clapping.
Caroline pulled Zoey in for a hug, "Now you're officially part of the Richman family! It's about time I had someone to talk to!"
"Hey, don't I count?" Lee protested.
"You're my husband, you have to talk to me," Caroline teased.
"See what being married gets you?" Lee said turning to Max. "Nothing but trouble."
Caroline rolled her eyes, "You say that like you don't love every minute of it."
The judge cleared his throat behind them and gestured for everyone to sign the marriage license. Once they had all signed he bid them good day and left the room.
"Sooo…." Zoey started, unsure of what they should do now.
"Shall we go celebrate? Dinner's on us, consider it a wedding present!" Caroline offered.
Max grinned at Zoey, "Why not, it's not every day that we get married."
"Come on, I know just the place," Caroline said, leading them out of the room.
"To Max and Zoey!" Lee toasted, as the four of them clinked their glasses. "I'd give a whole speech but since you didn't give us much time to prepare I didn't write one. So, I will simply say congratulations and wish you luck and happiness in the five years to come."
Max glanced over at Zoey as he took a sip of his champagne. She was laughing at a story Caroline was telling her, no doubt about his younger days. Zoey turned to smile at him, and he felt his breath catch. She looked lovely, her cheeks flushed from laughter and champagne. His eyes drifted down to her lips as he remembered the feel of them on his.
No, no, no. This is not good. Yes, she's your wife, but you are just friends and nothing more. You cannot have these feelings for your wife….Fuck….
A/N: Apologies for taking so long to update, work and school have been a lot to handle as of late. In just a few weeks I'm starting my last semester of grad school so updates may not be as frequent as they have been before! Thank you all for your support and comments, I really appreciate them!
As always a huge thank you to my lovely beta AubreyRichman
Any dialogue you recognize is from the episodes Pilot and Best Friend.
Zoey quickly ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face. Max was singing her another love song? What was going on here?
She thought back to the other day when she had been about to tell Max about her strange powers.
“There she is, our new team leader! Is it weird that I’m now a little intimated by you?” Max teased.
“Oh, please,” Zoey grinned, waving him off.
“So first day, how you feeling?”
“Really good actually. You know, I just want to tell you what a great friend you’ve been through all this, Max. It’s just been really comforting to know that I have you, as like my rock. And, crazy thing is, I haven’t even told you everything that’s been going on with me lately. You wouldn’t believe….”
Max suddenly looked anxious, he started playing with the ring on his right finger, something she noticed he only did when he was nervous.
“Are you alright? What’s going on?”
“Nothing. Nothing, it’s just…. Last night”
I was sleeping and right in the middle of a good dream
Like all, at once I wake up from something that keeps knocking at my brain
Zoey sighed, “Okay, now you’re singing too. I don’t think I know this one.” She took a seat in Max’s chair and watched as he danced around his desk. It was quite endearing to watch.
Before I go insane I hold my pillow to my head
And spring up in my bed screaming out the words I dread
“What words are those?” she asked, curiously. Max turned around to face her and sang the last words she had ever expected to hear from him.
I think I love you!
“I’m sorry, what?” Zoey laughed out nervously. Max slid over to her on his knees.
I think I love you so what am I so afraid of
He held out his hands for hers, spinning her around in the chair.
I'm afraid that I'm not sure of a love there is no cure for
Max danced up the staircase, as he continued his song.
I think I love you isn't that what life is made of
Though it worries me to say that I never felt this way
Zoey stared at him unsure of how to react to his revelation.
Max looked at her confused, “What?”
And now here she was splashing cold water on her face, trying to hide how flushed Max’s newest love song had made her. How long had her best friend had these feelings for her? She glanced down at the ring on her right hand, did he have these feelings for her when they got married? He would have said something right?
Zoey sighed, this was all too much to deal with right now, she would just try and make it through the day and think about it later. She nodded at her reflection and squared her shoulders before heading back out to the bullpen.
Zoey stood at the cereal bar, eating and trying to think about what she should do about Max. Speak of the devil.
Max approached her grinning, “Great news, I won the lottery!”
“What?” Does Max even play the lottery?
“Well, the restaurant lottery. I finally got us into that fancy farm-to-table place," he explained.
“You got us into Hand-Picked?!” Zoey couldn't believe it.
“Yeah! Thursday night. Is it a date?"
Zoey panicked, "Is it a date?!"
Max looked at her oddly, "What? No. I just thought we could have a celebration of sorts…."
Zoey was confused, "Like for my promotion?"
Max awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck, "Well, yes that, but it's also been a year…."
"A year?" She repeated.
He glanced significantly at the ring on her right hand and cleared his throat. "Umm yeah, a year…"
Understanding dawned on her face, "Oh wow, you're right! A year already?"
Max grinned, "I know, it just flew by. So, what do you say?"
Zoey worried her bottom lip, she didn't know what to do. "Let me check my schedule, make sure there isn't any family thing going on that night and I'll let you know?"
Max nodded, "Sounds good," and he headed back to his desk.
Zoey pulled out her phone, "Mo, we have an emergency! Meet me at Golden Gate Grind in 10!"
"It happened again. I heard Max sing another love song to me this morning, and, this time it seemed way less ambiguous than last time."
Mo looked curious, "What song was it?"
Zoey winced, "Sucker."
Mo grinned, "Ooh, that songs hot! How did Max look doing it?"
Zoey blushed as she thought about how distracting and attractive she had found Max while he sang to her. "It doesn't matter. My best friend is super into me, Mo!"
"So what? He’s attractive and single, you’re attractive and single, I don’t know why you haven’t tried to lock that down already!” Mo said, rolling his eyes.
Zoey was about to respond when she heard the notes of a song beginning.
“Zoey, are you even listening to me?” Mo asked.
"I’m listening, just not to you at the moment," Zoey responded distractedly as she listened to the people in the cafe sing.
"You mean you're hearing a heart song right now?"
"Yeah, and it's very emotional and moving." Zoey stood entranced as she watched the people in the cafe sing and dance to, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."
Her eyes followed their usual barista Autumn, as she sadly sang.
I need a man who'll take a chance
On a love that burns hot enough to last
So when the night falls
My lonely heart calls
Zoey could feel a plan forming in her head.
"Hey, Autumn," she smiled at her.
"Oh hey, Zoey, the usual?"
"Yeah. And actually, I think I'll get something to go for my buddy, Max. Speaking of Max, what's your take on Max? You like his vibe? Appearance? General outlook? You a fan?"
She could feel Mo glaring at her, "Zoey, this is not a good idea."
Zoey waved her hand dismissively, "Quiet Mo, I'm working here."
Mo rolled his eyes, "I reserve the right to say I told you so," he murmured.
"Zoey, this feels weird," Autumn said as she nervously smoothed her clothes. "You sure Max is okay with it?"
"Psh, of course, he is!" Zoey led Autumn over to the chair Max was working in.
"Hey. Guess what? I used Dijkstra's algorithm to find the shortest paths between all hunt locations so we can make sure our guests get to…. Hi," Max finally looked up to see Zoey and Autumn standing in front of him.
"Hey Max, you know Autumn right?"
"Umm sure. Hey," he responded, unsure of what was happening.
"So, turns out I can't make it Thursday, but Autumn is a big fan of farm-to-table and would love to take my place," Zoey explained, as she nudged Autumn forward.
"Oh," Max tried not to look too crestfallen. He had been looking forward to spending their first anniversary together. She's only your wife on paper, it's not a real marriage remember? No need to celebrate an anniversary that doesn't mean anything.
"Only if you're cool with it," Autumn interrupted his train of thought.
"Well, yeah. Um, I mean, I can't really think of anyone else I would take at the moment," Max agreed. Best not to waste the reservation, and Autumn seemed nice enough.
"Great!" Zoey exclaimed eagerly. "I'm gonna go work on the thing," she quickly backed away as Max watched her with an unreadable expression on his face.
Zoey sighed, relieved to have found a solution to her problem. She glanced back and saw Max laughing at something Autumn said. She shook her head, ignoring the ache she felt in her chest as she watched them. Thinking no more on the subject, she threw herself into her work.
Zoey was walking around the bullpen checking in on her team's progress, ignoring Max who was trying to get her attention.
Max got tired of waiting for her to look at him, "Hey, Zo. Will you tell me the truth?"
Zoey's eyes widened in a panic and she gestured for him to follow her.
"Why didn't you want to go to dinner with me?" Max asked, looking at her sadly.
"What? No, I have a thing," she started.
Max raised his eyebrows at her, "Uh-huh, a rather convenient thing. You've been acting weird since I mentioned Hand-Picked. What's going on?"
"I just think that people might suspect something if we were to go to a place like Hand-Picked." Zoey nervously played with her ring as she spoke.
"Everyone knows we're friends, Zoey. It's not like we haven't had dinner together before."
"I just think that it's not such a good idea, especially since I'm your boss now. We need to be extra careful that nobody finds out about…"
"Considering it's been a year and no one is even remotely suspicious, I think we're okay. What? You think that we eat some pickled beets out of a Mason jar, and they suddenly realize that we're married?" Max replied sarcastically.
"Keep your voice down," Zoey hissed.
Max glanced over at the team, none of whom were paying attention to the two of them.
"I'm pretty sure that nobody cares," Max rolled his eyes.
"Max, I don't want to fight about this," Zoey sighed.
"No, wouldn't want the team to think we were in the middle of a lover's quarrel now, would we? If you need to create some boundaries between us, fine, " Max bit out as he walked back to his desk.
Zoey winced at his harsh tone, she knew she had hurt him.
Max spent the rest of the day refusing to even look in her direction. When they were done for the day he quickly packed his things and left, not even saying goodbye.
Zoey felt that ache in her chest again as she watched him leave. She groaned in frustration and placed her head on her desk. This was a disaster, she needed to fix things and fast.