A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) -Complete

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KindredKandies
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) -Complete

Postby KindredKandies » Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:19 pm

A Tale of Two Christmases

By: Kindred Kandies aka ArchAngel1973 in collaboration with Marsis

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Disclaimer: Characters and plot lines that appeared in the series, the books, and the concept of Roswell are not mine. Belong to Melinda Metz, UPN, etc, etc…

Pairing: M&M but will also feature M&L as well as Isabel and Kyle (not a couple)

Rating: Mature

Summary: Post-Graduation. The gang breaks down their first Christmas after leaving Roswell.

Author’s Note 1: For Mag – Because we all need a little Christmas. ;)

Link to vid: A Tale of Two Christmases

Author’s Note 2: Banner and Trailer by the talented (and patient) candysteffi – you rock, girl! Thanks!



Part 1

The old mini-bus moved along the Interstate at a respectable 70mph, keeping pace with the slower traffic until they moved past the city limits and the number of cars on the road began to thin out. The man behind the wheel rolled his shoulders, trying to ease the tension that had intensified as soon as he had guided the bus onto the larger, well-traveled road. They rarely traveled by Interstate, preferring to stick to the older state highways and smaller county roads, but the road they had intended to take had been closed, leaving them no choice but to take the Interstate.

Blue and red lights suddenly flashed in the rearview mirror and his tension worsened. His grip on the steering wheel tightened and his heart started to pound as he flipped his turn signal on and began to ease into the right-hand lane. The Highway Patrol car sped up and blew past them to pull over another vehicle several hundred yards ahead of them.

“I hate how much it scares me anytime that happens.”

Michael Guerin glanced at the woman who had spoken, wincing when the lights from the oncoming traffic illuminated her pale features. The momentary fear of discovery had caused every bit of color to drain from her face, leaving her cheeks washed out. He hated the way they had been forced to exist because they deserved better than this. She deserved better than this. He glanced at the others in the rearview mirror, taking in the way they slept – restless and on edge. The stress of being on the road and constantly looking over their shoulders for the past six months had left them all exhausted, physically and mentally.

The sound of fabric rustling caught his attention and he turned his head to shoot a quick look at his girlfriend, Maria DeLuca. Her gaze was locked on some point in the distance and he reached over to lay his hand over hers where they were clenched in her lap. “How long before we can get off the Interstate?” he asked to distract her.

Maria glanced at the mile marker in the distance, squinting as it grew larger in the headlights. She had spent so much time studying road maps and their routes that she didn’t need to consult the map to answer his question. “It’s about 17 more miles to the exit.” And away from Highway Patrol and big city cops, she thought to herself.

She turned one of her hands over under his, interlocking their fingers and stroking the fingers of her free hand over the back of his hand. Her gaze dropped to the ice-encrusted snow that had built up along the sides of the road. Dirt and grime from the road had sprayed over the frozen edges, coating them with a grungy dark gray film that glittered in places when the headlights played over it.

Michael’s thoughts were scrambling around as he watched the mile markers pass by. He silently cursed Jessie for saddling them with such a distinctive vehicle that was practically impossible to hide. What the fuck had he been thinking? He rubbed his eyes tiredly. Who knew where they’d be if it hadn’t been for Jessie’s help? They should’ve ditched the bus long ago but they were short on money and it had just been easier to hold onto the albatross, changing the color and the license plate on a regular basis. It was a miracle they hadn’t been pulled over for the faulty taillight before now. They had fixed the damn thing over and over and for whatever reason it continued to short out. He glanced at Maria, feeling even lower at the realization that with their current situation they would most likely have to steal an SUV or van to replace it… and he would be the one who carried that duty out. Yeah, he thought once more, she deserved so much more than this.

His mind wandered back to a conversation with Maria way back in the beginning when they were just getting to know each other. It had been an unexpected conversation that had taken place in the most unlikely of places. His brow furrowed into a frown as he looked around at the frozen landscape surrounding them. 18 years old and on the run from a secret government unit that specialized in hunting down aliens… yeah, so much for ‘better than Roswell, New Mexico,’ he thought morosely.

Between the scowl on his face and the tension in his hand Maria knew his thoughts were dipping into dangerous territory. She increased the pressure she was applying to his hand and after several minutes she felt him relax fractionally. She didn’t know what he was thinking about but she knew it would be one of about half a dozen things that kept his mind on edge and prevented him from ever really relaxing.

“The exit’s coming up in two miles,” she said unnecessarily when the lights bounced off of the sign posted next to the road.

Michael glanced at her and nodded. “We’ll stop soon,” he said when he noticed her shifting around as she searched for a more comfortable position.

She nodded. Usually when they stopped for the night it was at a campground, bunking down in the bus or in sleeping bags around a campfire, and every once in a while they would share one of the rustic cabins when available. It was only on rare occasions that they went to the expense of staying in a hotel and when they did, more often than not they shared one room. There was no privacy, no time to be alone with her thoughts, and she knew more about the others than she had ever wanted to know. There were just some things about your friends that you never wanted or needed to know. It was an intolerable existence being in such close quarters 24/7 and she knew she wasn’t the only one who desperately wanted and needed time away from the others.

It was a given that tonight they would stay in a hotel. The temperatures in northeastern Michigan had dipped below freezing and the mercury was slowly creeping lower and lower. It was too cold to risk sleeping in the van unless they were driving and the campgrounds were closed for the year. Not that it mattered because it was too damn cold to be sleeping outside anyway.

Michael rubbed his eyes tiredly as he took the exit for Old 23 and started to follow it, his gaze searching the sides of the road. The moon had come out to shed its light over the barren snow-covered fields and the naked branches of the bordering trees cast long shadows across the road before them.

Maria turned her head to the side to look at Michael when he eased off of the gas just slightly and she looked away when he raised the hand she held to point at something ahead of them. She followed his pointing finger, gasping quietly when she saw a small group of deer on the side of the road. They raised their heads and the headlights caught their eyes, making them glow an iridescent green.

She knew he had slowed down on the off chance the deer did something really stupid like run across the road instead of out into the field, but he had brought them to her attention because he knew it would make her smile. “Look at the smaller ones,” she said, her voice hushed as she pointed to a couple of younger deer farther back from the road.

Their ears flicked as the van approached them and they turned, tails standing straight up to reveal the white undersides as they disappeared past the trees. She leaned back in her seat again, cradling his hand against her body and unconsciously rubbing his knuckles. She shifted to pull her pillow up from where it had become wedged between her body and the door. Thankfully at least the side that had been pressed against her body was warm, she thought as she squished it between her shoulder and the door and wiggled around in an effort to get comfortable.

Michael glanced over his shoulder when a hand settled on his arm and one eyebrow lifted when he saw Kyle blinking blearily at him.

“When’re we stoppin’?” he mumbled sleepily. He pressed the button on the side of his watch to illuminate the dial and squinted in an attempt to make out the numbers. “It’s after 9pm, Michael. I thought we agreed to stop before now? We’re gonna pay for an entire night and not get our money’s worth.”

“Are you drivin’?” Michael asked. “No. We stop when I say we stop.”

Kyle motioned to the road sign coming up. “There’s somethin’ comin’ up… city or town, whatever. Why not just stop there?” He rolled his eyes when the hybrid ignored him, feeling it was unnecessary to explain his decision any further. He was tired, his back hurt from sleeping in the uncomfortable, pretzel-like position for the past couple of hours and he just wanted to be horizontal for the rest of the night. He slouched back in his seat, glancing at Isabel where she was curled up on most of the bench seat. She had won the coin toss for the privilege of lying down and even though he’d never be able to prove it he was pretty sure she had cheated.

He sighed as he rested his head against his jacket where he had wedged it between the end of the backrest and the window and folded his arms over his chest. He tried in vain to stretch his legs out and he finally gave up, unintentionally kneeing Michael in the back when he tried to resituate himself. “Sorry,” he muttered before the guy went off on him. They were all exhausted and these days it didn’t take much to set any of them off. The last thing he wanted was to get into a fight with Michael. Especially in the confines of the bus. That would just spark off a group argument and those were never fun.

He looked up when the headlights bounced off of an upcoming sign and he pursed his lips as he studied the name of the city that was 8 miles away: Tawas City. “Hmm,” he murmured to himself. “Tah-wass… Tuh-wass… Tah-wuz… Tuh-wuz…” He suddenly grinned to himself. “Ta’was two weeks before Christmas, and we’re stuck in the van. Not a hybrid was moving – “

“Except for Isabel’s hand,” the tall blonde growled crankily and smacked the back of his head. “People are trying to sleep, Kyle, so zip it.”

He rubbed his stinging scalp and burrowed closer to his side of the bus. “Fine, smack a guy around for tryin’ to find some humor in this situation.”

Isabel squeezed her eyes shut and forced his voice into the background. She craved normalcy the way someone stranded in the desert craved water to sate their thirst. There was no such thing on the road but unlike the thirsty person in the desert who would resort to swallowing sand in the belief that it was water, she had accepted that normal would never happen. Not for them.

Michael’s jaw relaxed when Kyle and Isabel settled down once more before one of them just went off on the other. He checked the rearview mirror to see if their minor skirmish had disturbed the couple sleeping behind them and was relieved to see that they seemed to be as relaxed as they were capable of being these days.

Even Max and Liz were on edge all the time and being on the run had worn them down, disrupted the connection between them. While he tended to scoff at the idiocy of getting married at their age he knew early on it had given them something to hold onto. Lately, they had fallen prey to the same problems that plagued the rest of them. The stress of the existence they had been forced to endure for the past six months was wearing all of them down and slowly but surely tearing them apart. Individually, as couples, and as a group.

The miles flew past as he maneuvered the bus through Tawas City and just the slightest hint of a smile touched his lips as he thought about Kyle’s ill-timed, made-up song. The road expanded into four lanes as they drove through the city and finally tapered back down to two when they left the city behind. He rubbed his eyes again, trying to ignore the grainy feeling that let him know he hadn’t slept in too long. Only a few more miles and we’ll stop, he reminded himself. He had grown accustomed to seeking out small roadside hotels; mom-and-pop stops that provided a certain sense of anonymity and made him feel a little more comfortable when they stopped. Big hotel chains asked for too much information and he didn’t feel the need for a shower and a comfortable bed outweighed the risk.

The city lights had disappeared from the rearview mirror as soon as they had gone around a curve in the road and as the tires ate up the miles the night seemed to get darker. They had only gone about four or five miles when the van suddenly jerked backward with a loud metal on metal sound that seemed to come from something dragging on the pavement behind them.

Isabel, who was already annoyed by Kyle’s earlier interruption shot bolt upright, grabbing the back of the seat in front of her to keep from falling on the floor. “God, Michael! I told you to take it easy on the potholes!” I hate the roads in this State, she thought as the realization that he hadn’t bothered to respond started to sink in. “What happened?” she demanded.

“What’s wrong?” Max asked, sounding half-asleep. The loud noise had brought him upright, but his brain hadn’t quite caught up with his body. “Did we hit somethin’?”

Beside him, Liz rolled her eyes as she sat up, rubbing her neck and turning her head back and forth to work the stiffness out of it. “Where are we?”

“We’re…” Isabel glanced around. “That’s a good question, Michael.” She couldn’t ignore the colorful curses coming out of his mouth. She didn’t know if they were directed at her or the mini-bus, but it quickly became unimportant when she noticed the white fields surrounding them, the blacktop the only thing seeming to divide the endless sea of white. “You’ve dumped us in the middle of arctic hell, Michael!”

“I think you’re mixing your metaphors or somethin’, Isabel,” Kyle said helpfully only to earn an angry glare and a shove.

“Choke on a fortune cookie, Kyle,” she snapped.

He just grinned at her because he knew it would make her a lot madder than if he argued with her. “Well, that’d be irony, wouldn’t it?”

Michael cursed under his breath as he guided the now decelerating and out-of-power van off onto the side of the road. It rolled to a stop amid the sounds of confusion and the expected interrogation from the biggest backseat driver he’d ever known. He’d thought Maria was bad about that, but that was only until he’d spent time in the drivers’ seat with Miss Know-It-All shouting instructions at him like he’d never sat behind a steering wheel before.

Silence fell over the occupants in the bus as they stared out at the snowy landscape illuminated by the headlights. Michael felt Maria’s gaze on him as his hand curled over the door handle and he jerked it, shoving the door open and climbing out. He pulled his coat on and hurried to zip it up, pausing when he realized that no one else was rushing to get out. He stalked over to the window next to Kyle and rapped his knuckles against the glass, motioning for him to get out of the bus.

Kyle was in the process of tying the laces on his work boots and he turned to glare at the impatient hybrid, shooting the finger at him when Michael gestured for him to hurry up. He was bundling up in his less than adequate coat when the passengers’ side door opened and he knew Michael was going to blow a gasket. He and Max collided as they reached the side door at the same time and then engaged in a shoving match to get the door open.

Michael barreled around the front of the bus when the moonlight reflected off of the mirror and drew his attention to the woman exiting the bus. “Maria, what the hell are you doin’?” He took her arm and carefully pushed her back inside. “It’s too cold for you to be out here.” He slammed the door before she could get the first word of protest out and he held his hand over the locking mechanism, sealing it so she couldn’t get out.

He grabbed the handle for the side door, jerking it open and shoving it back. He jumped back when Kyle and Max fell out, landing in the snow and grabbing onto each other to stumble back to their feet. “Go check the engine, Valenti.”

“God, it’s freezing out here!” Max hissed when the wind picked up, blowing a dusting of snow over them. He looked out at the road, watching the way the snow seemed to move over the blacktop in gentle waves and he shivered. “Let’s hurry this up.” He shoved his hands in his coat pockets and hunched his shoulders against the wind as he followed the others to the rear of the vehicle.

Kyle fumbled for the latch to release the engine cover, his fingers already feeling frozen and clumsy. “Ya know, I’m livin’ in close quarters with three aliens who are completely inept when it comes to mechanics.” He grunted when the latch started to give. “You guys are useless in this capacity.” He pulled his hand back inside the cuff of his sleeve, using his material-covered hand to lift it up.

They crouched down in a half-circle around the exposed engine and Michael held the cover open while Max held the flashlight he had brought with him. Kyle brought his hands up to his mouth to blow on them for a few seconds before he reached inside and started fumbling around. He fiddled around for several minutes, pausing every few seconds to pull his hands up inside his sleeves and trying to heat them with his breath.

“Whose idea was it to head up to the great white North again?” Max muttered, hands covered by the cuffs on his sleeves and tucked up under his armpits.

“Max, I need the toolbox and since my knees are just about frozen in this position and Michael’s over here impersonating an ice sculpture maybe you could go get it.” He was grateful when Max went to get the toolbox before Michael started going off on him. He was shifting in an attempt to stand and restore some circulation to his lower legs when Michael suddenly let go of the engine cover, nearly braining him with it. He opened his mouth to yell but before a single word made it past his throat Michael was talking and he turned his head to see Maria approaching them.

“I told you to stay in the van.”

“While you stand out here and freeze? No, I’m not the little woman who needs to be coddled and protected. I will not be told to wait inside while you – “

“Maria, we’ve gotta see if we can fix this so we can get back on the road.” He glared at her when she had the audacity to snort.

“Fix it? The last time you attempted to fix an engine you fried the battery and humiliated yourself. It’d be safer for everyone concerned if you just step away from the engine before it goes up in smoke.”

The sound of laughter had his head snapping to the side and he frowned at Kyle when the guy caught his dark look and started to cough in an attempt to cover his humor. “Choke on it, Valenti,” he snarled as he took Maria’s hand to pull her back to the front of the bus. “Let’s go, Maria.”

Between the temperature and the wind that blew from time to time Maria felt like a block of ice. Getting back in the bus felt like a really good idea but only if he understood it was her idea.

“I’m not gonna stand out here an’ argue with you about this all night, Maria. Now let’s go!” he snapped.

She almost felt bad for testing him because he was tired and irritable but she wasn’t going to be bullied or bossed around. Not even when it was in her best interest. She could almost feel his annoyance notching up when the wind chose that moment to blow and she visibly shivered as it hit her skin like thousands of tiny daggers.

Michael jerked the door open and motioned for her to hurry up and get inside. He harrumphed when she climbed up inside after informing him – through chattering teeth – that she was only getting inside because she’d had enough of the cold. He shook his head and started to stalk to the back of the bus. Women! he muttered silently. What went through their minds when – oh, shit! It was as far as his thoughts got between his heel finding a slick spot and his back hitting the asphalt.

His right hand shot up in the air when he heard the door open, the gesture and the expression on his face one that would warn anyone else off. But not Maria. He sighed when she helped him to his feet, running her hands over him to determine if anything was broken or if he’d injured more than his pride.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Maria,” he bit out. “You’ve had a cold the last few days, now get inside before you catch pneumonia.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked when he brushed her hands off.

“Maria.” The irritation was still there but it was the concern for her laced beneath it that had her nodding and getting back inside. He crouched back down beside the guys in time to hear five words that didn’t improve his mood.

“I think the engine’s shot.”

“That’s just perfect.” Michael thumped the side of one fisted hand against the useless vehicle and cursed loudly. “Fuckin’ fantastic.”

“What the hell are we gonna do now?” Max asked, standing up and shoving his hands back in his pockets.

Kyle hunched his shoulders and ducked his head in an effort to avoid the worst of the snow when the wind blew. “I’d suggest getting outta the wind.”

“What’s the verdict?” Liz asked when the guys climbed back inside. She jumped when Kyle dropped the heavy toolbox on the floor. “I take it that’s not a good sign.”

“Kyle thinks the engine’s shot,” Max said, tucking his hands under his thighs to warm them up.

“Well, what’re we supposed to do now?” Isabel demanded. “We’re in the middle of nowhere!”

Michael knew it fell to him to answer her question because he was the one who had decided on the route they had been taking. “We’ll just walk to the next house – “

“It’s below freezing out there!”

“Are there any other glaringly obvious facts you’d like to point out, Isabel?” he snapped. “I’m aware of how cold it is outside, but no engine means no heat. We can’t just stay here; we’re gonna have to find someplace warm to stay until we can have this piece of crap looked at.”

Maria had been rubbing his hands, trying to warm them up. “Have you seen any houses since we got out of the city?”

He shook his head. “Not that I noticed, but as late as it is…” he shook his head. “If there were any houses the lights were already out.”

“How close are we to the city?” Isabel asked.

He shook his head. “I don’t know, four or five miles at least. Too far to attempt walking back. Goin’ forward makes the most sense. We’re bound to have better luck that way. If we keep movin’ we should be okay.”

“We don’t have the proper clothing for this weather,” Isabel reminded him.

“Would you rather sit here and freeze to death?” he snapped.

“Michael’s right,” Max said, interrupting the storm that was about to break. “We’re just gonna have to bundle up as well as we can and start walkin’.”
Last edited by KindredKandies on Sun Mar 01, 2015 5:01 pm, edited 78 times in total.
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 2 - 12/19/10

Postby KindredKandies » Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:50 am

Eva – LOL. Yes, this is my very first time at a fic. Thank goodness Angel is in the driver's seat.

Yes, our gang has had the reality of being on the run and always looking over their shoulders and its’ worn them down physically and mentally. Breaking down on the road might be a good thing in disguise

keepsmiling7 – Aww, we’re glad you’re liking our fic so far. Sometimes unexpected moments bring on change…

mary mary – LOL. Yup everyone's patience is stretched to their limits after being on the road for six months constantly looking over their shoulders. It just heightens the dynamics of our M&M. It's never easy with the two of them. :)

Natalie36 – Aww, thank you for reading! ;)


Part 2

There was just the dimmest glimmer of light on the east side of the highway as they started their trek and they agreed to head towards it. They hadn’t been prepared for this type of weather, at least not as far as getting out and facing the elements. Inside the mini-bus was one thing but outside was a different story. They were huddled up inside of their sleeping bags, the bulky material wrapped around their bodies and providing little protection against the bite of the freezing wind blowing out of the north.

The wind whistled through the trees as the group carefully made their way along the side of the highway. They had been walking for nearly half an hour when Isabel spotted the lights up ahead. They had lost sight of the light they were following when they had reached a slight dip in the road but it reappeared when they stepped over the rise. Multi-colored bulbs outlined the roof of a house in the distance and she elbowed Michael and nodded when he glanced at her.

He made a quick motion to let her know he had understood and he pulled Maria closer against his side. He could feel her shaking as they approached the mailbox standing at the end of the driveway like a frozen sentry guarding its post. He glanced at the name but couldn’t make it out with the snow covering most of it.

Maria lifted her head just enough to look up at the house when the lights reflecting off of the snow caught her attention. Christmas, she mused. Funny, it seemed so distant. Or maybe she was the one who was so distant. Was it like that for all of them? Christmas was only two weeks away and she couldn’t recall any of them mentioning it. She stumbled and was thankful when Michael’s arm tightened around her and kept her from making an upside-down snow angel.

Michael glanced at the weathered sign hanging from one of the beams over the railing: Welcome to Stevens’ Sanctuary on the Lake, Est. 1987. He reached out and shoved Liz forward. “Go knock on the door.” He shivered a shrug when Max glared at him. “She looks the youngest and the least threatening,” he mumbled.

*****

The distant sound of knuckles rapping against the front door disturbed Julia Stevens’ sleep and roused her just enough to make her open her eyes and glance around. Silence once again settled and she strained to hear it again and just as she had decided it was her imagination she heard it again. She glanced at her sleeping husband, rolling her eyes when the knocking became more insistent and he still didn’t move.

“Edward, are you asleep?”

She waited.

“Did you hear that?”

And waited a bit more.

“Edward! I think someone’s on the front porch!”

Edward rolled over and snuffled loudly. “I don’t hear – “ Loud knocking interrupted him before he could finish and his eyes snapped open. “I heard that though.”

On their way into the living room he stopped long enough to grab his shotgun and the shells. He leaned it up against the wall to the right of the door as he reached out and flipped the switch for the floodlight, temporarily blinding whoever was on the other side of the door.

Julia inhaled sharply when she peered through the window next to the door and she saw the group huddled around the front door. Edward’s intention with the floodlight had produced the desired effect; they were blinking rapidly and looking away, trying to regain their sight that the flash of bright light had taken from them. She glanced from one bundled figure to the next, her eyes taking in the weary expressions and their shaking bodies. “Oh, Edward, they’re just kids! For God’s sake it’s freezing out there, open the door!”

He opened the door cautiously, turning on the porch light and killing the floodlight. His gaze moved over them one by one, frowning at the use of sleeping bags as protection against the winter weather. Their clothes were of little use against the temperatures and wind and he wondered why they were out in this weather dressed as they were.

He paused when his eyes landed on the taller kid standing at the back of the group. There was something about him that made him stand apart from the others. He was unsmiling, his face set in a determined scowl, but it was the way the boy watched him as if taking stock of the situation that had his attention. His eyes lowered to the girl held against the boy’s body and he noticed the way he had his coat opened up and wrapped around her, his gesture and expression protective. The girl was pale and visibly shaking in spite of what little warmth she was getting from the boy.

Edward’s gaze finally came to rest on the two girls standing at the front of the little group and he wondered how these people came to be traveling together. The girls couldn’t have been more different. One tall, blonde, and obviously the one most used to getting what she wanted. The other was short, brunette, and likely the smartest one in the group. Book smart, he amended silently just as she opened her mouth to stutter out an explanation for their presence.

“Our van… b-b-broke… d-down and we – “

“Edward, bring them inside,” Julia insisted, not needing to hear anymore. She poked him and motioned to the shotgun resting against the wall before hissing, “And put that thing away!” She ushered the kids into the living room as they filed inside, their movements stiff from the bitter cold.

“So, where’re you kids from?” he asked. “And what’re you doin’ up here?”

“Miami,” Maria piped up, her voice slightly shaky.

“We were on our way to Lake S-S-Superior State University to visit a f-f-friend for the holiday since he couldn’t m-make it home,” Liz answered, ignoring Michael when he leveled a gaze at her that could’ve melted steel.

“Uh-huh,” Edward repeated, eyes slightly narrowed. “Where’s the university?”

“Sault Sainte Marie,” Maria rasped tiredly. Staring at maps for hours on end really did have its advantages.

“Right,” he said slowly when her pronunciation had it sounding like Salt Sainte Marie instead of Soo Sainte Marie. “Most people stay in hotels when they’re travelin’.”

Julia saw right through the paper-thin story and quickly decided it didn’t matter. “Oh, Edward,” she said with a warm laugh, “don’t you remember back when we were dating and we got into your old ’79 Mustang and drove all over the place? We slept in state campgrounds for a week before we finally shelled out cash for a hotel room.”

“Well…” He nodded, dropping the line of questioning when she motioned to the wood burning stove.

She was pushing the couches closer to the wood burning stove when the smaller blonde’s knees buckled and the boy with her quickly caught her and lifted her up in his arms.

Edward immediately moved to add wood to keep the fire burning but his gaze followed the tall kid, watching his every move as he carried the girl across the room and ever so gently lay her down on the couch closest to the heat.

Maria reached out to Michael, placing her hand on his arm. “I’m okay, just tired and cold,” she tried to reassure him.

His worried expression didn’t ease, the frown line between his eyebrows deepening when she started to shake in earnest. He glanced up when someone reached past him and he relaxed fractionally when he saw that it was just Liz.

“She’s warm, Michael.” She gave a slight roll of her eyes when he brushed her hand aside to check Maria’s forehead for himself. “She’s been fighting off a cold for the past few days but I think she might have a fever.”

“Edward, go and get extra blankets from the hall closet,” Julia ordered, rushing him out of the room and following him. She hurried into the kitchen to put the kettle on and turned to get the tea when she bumped into her husband.

“That story wasn’t true.”

“No, it was pretty flimsy. But does it really matter? For whatever reason they ended up on our doorstep and it’s easy to see they need a little TLC.” She waved him out of the room. “Now go get those blankets. Those poor kids need to warm up.”

In the living room Michael was still on edge as he studied their surroundings, quickly locating every entrance into the room and mentally mapping potential escapes. “We need to call a tow truck,” he said as he sat on the edge of the couch next to Maria, holding her hands between his and rubbing them to warm them up. “We can’t leave that piece of crap out there on the road all night.” He glanced at Maria, checking her forehead once again as she dozed restlessly.

“You’re not gonna get a tow this late,” Edward said as he came back into the room, laden down with a stack of blankets.

“Don’t really wanna get a ticket for it bein’ out there either,” he muttered. He glanced up when the older man paused beside him to offer a couple of the blankets.

“The one time I needed a cop out here it took an hour an’ a half to find one. Besides, as long as you’re pulled off of the road and you’re not hindering traffic no one’s gonna bother your vehicle. I’m Edward, by the way. Edward Stevens.”

Max found his voice and he introduced each of them in turn as he rubbed his hands together over the wood burning stove.

“Guess when you kids were plannin’ your trip up here you forgot to check the weather report,” he said with a slight smile. He nodded when not a single one of them blinked at his suspicious tone. “Well, not to worry. We’ll put you up for the night. You boys can bunk down here in the livin’ room and the girls can sleep in the den. It’s actually an office but we’ve got a queen-sized futon in there that they can share.”

Liz smiled and nodded. “We can move Maria in there – “

“No,” Michael interrupted. “She stays where I can keep an eye on ‘er.” She wasn’t feeling good and he needed to be close by if she needed anything. He kicked at the sleeping bag lying on the floor next to his right foot. “I’ll sleep on the floor next to her.”

“I think that’ll be just fine,” Julia said as she came back with a tray of mugs filled with tea and hot chocolate. “Edward, I’ll go get that futon ready. Why don’t you grab some fresh towels and washcloths from the storeroom. You kids would probably enjoy a nice hot shower to help you thaw out and relax. It might make sleeping in a strange place a little easier too,” she said with a warm smile.

The couple finished getting things sorted out and by the time they turned out the lights and left their guests to sleep it was well after midnight. Julia paused in the doorway, watching the moonlight play over their young faces and she wondered about the circumstances that had brought them to their door. They couldn’t be more than 18 or 19 years old but they were bone-weary and seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. It didn’t matter, she decided. They had been brought to their door for a reason. It wasn’t necessary that she understand it, just that she did what she felt was right in her heart. And her heart was telling her that these kids had wound up on their doorstep because they needed help.

“Julia,” Edward called quietly, drawing her attention. Her mothering instincts were in overdrive and he knew the wheels were already turning. After 15 years of marriage he knew her well and by morning she would know what needed to be done.

She turned and nodded before casting one last glance over the bundled figures sleeping around the living room. She had her faith and she knew the answer would come to her in time. She joined her husband and as they settled under the covers she knew he wouldn’t sleep much with their unexpected company sleeping under the same roof.

Michael released the breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding when he heard a door close and he slowly sat up, reaching up to gently stroke Maria’s cheek. He was relieved to realize that she felt a little cooler than she had earlier. Julia had given Maria something for the cold and he determined that it must be working.

“Get some sleep, Michael,” Max rasped tiredly from the sleeping bag lying in front of the other couch.

“We need to keep watch,” Michael insisted. “They seem nice enough but we don’t know them and they could turn around and call the cops at any time.”

“I’ll take the first watch. I got some sleep earlier while you were drivin’.”

“Yeah,” Kyle whispered as he rolled onto his side on the second couch. “Me too, so I’ll take second watch. Get some shuteye, Guerin. You wanna be at your best if she needs you,” he said, knowing that would be the best way to get Michael to get some sleep.

“Alright, but we take short shifts. None of us need to take watch for too long. We’re all beat.”

“My vote’s the same. El Presidente takes first watch an’ I’ll take the next one. We’ll take good care of her, El Capitan,” Kyle said and raised his hand in a sloppy salute.

Michael grunted and settled down again, his back against the floor reminding him of all the nights he had spent sleeping next to Max’ bed after a fight with Hank. No need to get lost in those memories, he thought. Turning them loose on his exhausted mind was just a recipe for disaster. He shoved them back into the little box in the back of his mind and let his eyes drift shut.

Max lay awake long after the others had fallen asleep, his eyes locked on his wedding ring as he twisted it on his finger. They needed a break from the road. A break from each other, he thought as his thumb brushed over a nick in the band from the time his hand had gotten slammed in the door of the mini-bus.

He sighed as he wondered if there was a way for them to hide out and stay off of the road, even for a little while. The close proximity was creating distance between them and tensions were running higher than usual. Arguments between two of them quickly escalated into group arguments because there was no privacy and it was hard to carry on an argument with one other person with everyone else around. It was only a matter of time before the others got involved and from there it just went downhill.

His gaze moved around the room, pausing when he noticed the swath of moonlight that came through the window to illuminate the hand-carved cross on the wall. He had told Liz once that he didn’t believe in God but sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder. There had been several close calls since they had escaped Roswell and a couple of times he hadn’t had an explanation for how they had managed to elude their pursuers and escape capture. He rubbed his eyes and grumbled under his breath when Kyle started to snore softly. He relaxed slightly at the sound and he chuckled quietly at the realization that the sound was something that indicated normalcy in his life now.
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 3 - 12/25/10

Postby KindredKandies » Sat Dec 25, 2010 10:18 pm

Author’s Note: We wanted to stop in and wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS and also drop off a new part. We haven’t forgotten everyone who left feedback for the previous part and will be responding to that feedback with our next post.


Part 3

Julia was quietly making breakfast the next morning when the sound of feet pounding down the stairs caught her attention. Good Lord Almighty, it sounded like a herd of elephants coming down the stairs! She shushed her boys when they ran into the kitchen and over to the counter.

13-year-old Brian just rolled his eyes as he pulled down a bowl. “We’re not that loud, Mom.”

“Dad’s sleepin’ late, doofus,” 12-year-old Eddie reminded him with an elbow shot to his ribs. “The resort’s closed for the holidays.”

Brian shrugged his shoulders and headed over to the kitchen table, plopping himself down into his usual chair and pouring a bowl of cereal. “C’mon, Friday, get here already,” he muttered under his breath.

“Almost time to start countin’ down the days ‘til Christmas vacation!” Eddie chimed in. “I sooo can’t wait.”

Julia turned around to look at the boys when she realized she hadn’t heard the voice of her youngest. “Okay, you two, where’s your sister?” At five years old, little Maggie was the baby of the family. She was an inquisitive child by nature and for her to be absent and silent at the same time usually meant she was up to something.

*****

Michael stirred when he felt something brush across his cheek. He grumbled and turned his face away when Maria’s voice murmured his name and his eyes opened to focus on his surroundings. “M’ria?” he croaked as he studied her features. Her green eyes were clear and smiling as she looked down at him, and he reached up to cup her cheek. No fever.

“Michael, we have little people company,” she whispered, smiling.

He tipped his head back, staring up at the little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl staring down at him curiously. She held a stuffed polar bear tightly against her body and Michael blew out a breath to move the fringe of the offending stuffed animal’s green and white snowflake scarf away from his face.

Maria rolled her aching shoulders and turned toward the little girl who didn’t look the least bit afraid of her big, bad Spaceboy guard. She was about to say hello to her when a boy stepped into the room and she immediately saw the resemblance between the children.

“C’mon, Maggie, Mom says to come an’ eat breakf…” Brian’s eyes locked onto the stranger’s as he sat up and the boy didn’t lower his gaze as he crossed the room in a few quick strides. He reached down to clasp his sister’s hand, giving her a gentle but insistent tug. “C’mon, y’know we don’t talk to strangers.”

Maria hid a smile when Michael smirked at the kid, recognizing it as a sign of respect for the boy watching over his little sister.

*****

Edward was still bleary-eyed as he stumbled into the kitchen earlier than he had anticipated. His plans for some alone time with Julia had been disrupted when he had woken and remembered that they had half a dozen unexpected guests sleeping in various rooms.

“You should’ve stayed in bed longer,” Julia said, her eyes twinkling as she reached up the pinch his chin between her thumb and forefinger.

He grunted at her comment, ambling up behind her when the aroma of breakfast cooking finally registered. His favorite pancakes with sliced bananas and the cinnamon syrup she made just for him. He knew without looking she would have cereal out for the kids and eggs if they wanted them.

He glanced at his youngest boy when he heard the annoying sound of a spoon dragging across the bottom of a bowl.

“Mornin’, Dad,” Eddie greeted as he wiped milk off of his chin.

“I’ll be right back,” Julia said on her way out of the kitchen. She walked into the living room to find the kids, nudging her oldest when his staring contest with one of their guests bordered on being rude. “Breakfast is ready, kids. Brian, the bus will be here for you and Eddie any minute so the two of you need to get a move on. She turned to hurry back to the kitchen and bumped into her husband.

Edward followed her when she walked back to the stove to resume the last of the breakfast preparations. His arms came around her waist and he rested his chin on her shoulder as he pulled her close from behind, watching her flip the pancakes and put that last sizzle on the cooking sausage. He was contemplating the time and how much longer it would be before the kids left for school and how long before the tow truck arrived. He smiled when his wife turned in his arms with an all-knowing smile that had their 13-year-old making gagging noises as he entered the room with his sister trailing along behind him.

“Mom,” Brian complained, “it’s still a couple minutes before the bus gets here.” Hadn’t his parents figured out yet that stuff like this just totally grossed out everyone around them? Ungh, seeing his parents like this was just too much and sooo not right!

“And you’re still not ready yet are you?” she asked with a smile.

“So, where’d all the new faces come from, Dad?”

“They got stranded last night when their vehicle broke down,” Edward answered. He looked down when his daughter cleared her throat in an effort to be noticed. He smiled and crouched down so that he was at eye level and he reached out to tap his forefinger against the little black nose of her beloved stuffed toy. “How’re you an’ Miss Cindy Bear doin’ this mornin’?” he asked with a smile.

Julia was finishing with breakfast and setting it out when she heard the first signs of movement from their guests.

*****

Michael rubbed his eyes as he looked around, glancing at the windows when he realized that the light in the room came from a lamp and not sunlight. He was surprised to see that it was still dark outside as he crawled out of the sleeping bag. Morning was one thing, he thought. This was still night time. Perfect for going out and checking on the van and then getting that tow arranged though. He leaned over and gently kissed Maria, fingertips brushing against her cheek as he pulled back. “You should go an’ eat breakfast.”

“Wait,” Maria said as she grabbed a handful of his shirt to keep him close to her. “Where’re you going?” She pointed to the window. “The sun isn’t even up yet.”

He pried her fingers from his shirt and got up to search for the pair of military surplus boots he had been wearing the night before. He was shrugging into his jacket when he stubbed his toe on the heel of one of the boots where it rested in front of the couch.

Maria bit her lips as she sat up, trying to keep from laughing at him when she saw the effort he was making to hold back the expletive that wanted so badly to escape.

“I’m gonna call for a tow and go wait for it out by the van,” he gritted out through clenched teeth.

Maria sighed and pulled her feet up to tuck them under the blanket. She knew the only time he stopped pushing himself was if it was affecting her. “Michael, at least eat breakfast first.”

“Maria…”

“Michael…”

They both fell silent for a moment, simply looking at each other and seeing the reflection of stubbornness looking back at them.

“C’mon, I’ve seen you wolf down a meal in ten minutes flat,” she cajoled.

He shook his head and sat down to pull his boots on. “I’ll eat after this’s taken care of.” He looked up from lacing them up when she suddenly stood and started moving around the room. “Maria, what’re you doin’?”

“Lookin’ for my jacket and shoes. You know how this works. If you won’t eat, I won’t eat. I’m going with you.”

He scowled. “This isn’t up for discussion.”

Kyle rolled over in his sleeping bag on the couch, groaning as he peered over the edge to look at them. “Would you just give it up already, Guerin? The rest of us would like to snooze a little longer.” He rubbed a hand over his face as he added, “Besides, it’s not like that sardine can is goin’ anywhere.”

Max woke up and wished he could go right back to sleep when he heard the conversation going on around him. “Did someone say somethin’ ‘bout pancakes?” he asked groggily.

Michael was on the verge of replying to Max’s obvious attempt at redirecting them when their host walked into the room. His mouth snapped shut and he shifted to position himself between Maria and the other man.

“The tow will be here in about an hour, and breakfast is ready.”

His gaze studied the older man, gauging his tone and checking his demeanor. For a moment he was thrown back in time to another warm, comfortable home and another man who had been there to help him, and he nodded in response. “Thank you, sir.”

Edward just smirked. “Don’t thank me yet. My Julia’s been cookin’ all mornin’ like it’s Christmas Day. If we don’t get in there an’ eat it while it’s hot…”

Maria stood up and smiled at the man. “Thank you, we’ll be right there.” She waited until Edward had left them alone before she reached for Michael’s shirt, taking hold of it and pulling him to his feet.

He knew when he had lost but that didn’t mean he had to be graceful about it, he thought as he kicked Max’s leg when they passed him. He leaned over and let his palm rest on the foot of Kyle’s sleeping bag for a moment and within seconds Kyle was fighting with the zipper and cursing under his breath. He finally freed himself and rolled off of the couch, landing on Max.

Max grunted at the unexpected weight and he shoved Kyle off of him. “What are you doin’?”

“Mornin’ to you too, El Presidente.”

They both looked up in time to see Michael being pulled in the direction of the savory smell of breakfast cooking and their own stomachs began to grumble.

“When’s the last time you remember wakin’ up nice an’ warm with that smell in the air?” Max wondered aloud.

“You wanna do somethin’ about the alien itching powder voodoo El Capitan just infested my bag with?” Kyle asked as he scratched his arms.

Max chuckled and handled Kyle’s request before getting up and straightening up after himself.

*****

Liz stretched languorously, enjoying the rarity of waking up in an actual bed. Okay, it was technically a futon, but why argue semantics? It was warm and comfortable, the scent of what was sure to be a mouth-watering breakfast wafted through the air, and for a moment everything felt normal. The only thing missing was her husband hogging the bed and the covers. She smiled at that thought and opened her eyes when she heard a disgusted groan coming from less than a foot away.

Isabel was lying next to her with a disgruntled look on her face. “Sharing a bed with you is bad enough… do not share any of the thoughts you were just having about my brother.”

“Since when do we share on that level?” Liz countered.

The two girls exchanged a look before answering at the same time: “Never.” They laughed quietly as Isabel got up and raised her arms over her head to stretch before going to investigate the bathroom situation. She had fallen asleep the night before while Liz had taken advantage of the shower and now she desperately wanted a hot shower.

Liz took a few minutes to make herself presentable before quietly opening the door and stepping out into the hall. When Julia had come by to let them know breakfast would be ready soon she had said the guys were still asleep. She glanced into the living room and was disappointed to see that Max was already up and presumably with the others in the kitchen.

She glanced up when two boys, maybe teenagers, ran to the front door, pushing and shoving each other while trying to pull it open. It was impossible to tell which of them won and she shivered when a blast of cold air swept over her before the door slammed shut. A look out through the window revealed a school bus waiting in the dark at the end of the driveway and she wondered what time it was. She went looking for Max, following her nose and the sound of voices until she reached the kitchen doorway. She paused there, her gaze passing over Kyle, Maria, Michael and the couple who had graciously taken them in. She smiled at the little blonde-haired girl clutching some sort of white stuffed animal with one hand and eating with the other while talking.

Her gaze shifted to her husband, watching him as he focused so intently on the little girl and the way she interacted with her parents. It wasn’t the first time she had seen him like this and it sent her thoughts drifting to last Christmas and another child that had captured his attention in such an all-consuming way.

For a moment she was back in the Crashdown, sitting around a table with her friends talking about volunteering while Michael tossed out acerbic comments about the holiday, doing his best to get a rise out of Isabel. She could almost feel that sense of discomfort that had washed over her when Samuel had walked up to their table and called Max ‘Daddy’ after staring at him for a while. He had become convinced that his son was trying to contact him through Samuel, seeing signs in everything he did. The way Max had involved himself in the family’s life for several days after that had concerned her and she had worried about his obsession with the little boy.

Her heart sank as she watched her husband, wondering if he was aware that he was staring at the little girl. How long would it be before their hosts noticed it and that uncomfortable moment settled over the table?
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 4 - 1/1/11

Postby KindredKandies » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:57 pm

Part 2:

Alien_Friend – We're so glad that you like our start! We hope you'll continue to enjoy. Yes, Julia and Edward are good people. Thank you for reading especially with the goofy page resetting. lol. :)

begonia 9508 – Thank you, Eve. :) Yes, it is sad that they're always on guard and they're strung out and exhausted from it. A rest in a safe place is what they all need.

keepsmiling7 – Oh, yeah, the privacy issue would drive me insane. Thank goodness for Kyle's sense of humor. We're glad that you enjoyed the El Presidente comments.

Max and Liz, like the others, are in a constant state of stress. The unresolved issues or issues between them not confronted are bubbling up to the surface. Remember they all left Roswell in a huge hurry and didn't get to deal with anything else. Since then the reality of life on the road has really tested the whole gang. A forced stop just might be a gift in disguise. :)

Eva – Aww, we're glad it hit home for you on Christmas Eve...It's what we were hoping for.

Ah, the luxuries that we can take for granted...Showering and being warm and secure in our homes at night. Yes, these things will help our exhausted travelers not just physically but mentally as well.

So glad you like how Edward sized up Michael. We'll see more of that. Julia spoiling them rotten? LOL, she'd tell you that it's the right thing to do and have you help her do it.


Part 3:

mary mary – "Thank you for the Christmas gift." You are welcome! We so wanted to post on Christmas but I didn't have the time to do the replies. So we compromised and posted and delayed the replies. It wouldn't feel like Christmas without posting.

Yes, Max misses Zan When a parent is separated from their child they see them everywhere. Christmas and children are inseparable, it just makes it that much harder on him. :(

The Steven's are good people. Yes, the gang is in good hands during their forced stop. :)

begonia9508 – Oh, yeah, Christmastime and kids go together. It's a tough time of the year for Max not to think about his son.

"Must be a big surprise for their kids finding all these poeple sleeping in the living-room!"

LOL! Maggie seemed to like it.:) Aww, thanks we're glad that you liked the ud. ;)


Alien_Friend – The Stevens' are good aren't they? Edward was just being protective like someone else we know......Yes, we thought it would be good for the gang to be with a family for a while.

"Eagerly awaiting more! Merry Christmas! Glad you got to update yesterday."

Oh wow, thank you and we hope that you had a good Christmas as well. :) We were happy to post it. :)


keepsmiling7 – Yup, Max can't help but think of his son especially at Christmas... Maybe one day if or when it's safe enough perhaps they'll meet. *sigh* For now it's just a dream.

Thank you all for your lovely feedback!


Part 4

Max was oblivious to everyone else in the room as he watched Maggie carry on a conversation with her stuffed animal. She was a friendly child and she had introduced ‘Cindy’ the polar bear to each of them as breakfast had been served. She conversed with the toy and he had quickly realized that she spoke for Cindy, giving voice to her own questions through the bear. He smiled when she lifted the bear up and held it close to her ear, listening to imaginary whispers of conversation from the apparently shy toy.

He was fascinated with her and he couldn’t stop the questions that were bombarding him. It happened every time he observed children and the way they interacted with their parents and the world around them. When he had given his son up he had also given up a piece of his heart and soul and he was plagued by questions… and guilt.

What were his son’s adoptive parents like? Did he have a dad who spent time with him, who was involved with him and who would teach him everything he needed to know? His gaze lowered to the stuffed toy ‘talking’ to Maggie and he wondered if his son had a favorite toy and what it was. Did he have a mother who would hold him when he was hurt, soothe his nightmares and love him unconditionally? He would never have the answers to his questions because he knew he could never risk endangering his son’s life by trying to find him.

He glanced up when he felt his wife’s gaze on him and he mentally shook himself free of his thoughts. Since they had left Roswell he had been so careful to hide how much he missed his son because he didn’t want to burden Liz with his pain. He tried to keep his focus on them or on her while keeping that part of him buried. He smiled at her when she sat down in the empty chair between him and the little girl.

Maggie lifted her head to look at the pretty girl sitting down next to her and while the adults were all exchanging ‘good mornings’ she lifted Cindy up to her ear once more. “Cindy likes your ring,” she said, her free hand unconsciously creeping along the edge of the table.

“Does she?” Liz smiled and glanced at her rings. “Oh, that’s so sweet.”

Max leaned around his wife to look at the child. “Maggie, this’s Liz. She’s my wife.” His gaze moved to Liz. “She’s a little bit shy,” he said quietly before stretching his hand out to gently touch the stuffed animal. “This’s Miss Cindy the Bear, she’s Maggie’s friend.”

The little girl turned her head to look at Mama’s hand where it rested on the table next to her and she stared at the rings there for a moment. “You have rings like Mama an’ Daddy.”

“Maggie, it’s about time for your bus. You need to finish eating so you have time to get into your coat, leggings and boots,” Julia said, distracting Edward from the reaction she knew was coming in response to their daughter’s announcement.

“I’m finished, Mama,” she said as she slid down off of her chair.

“Alright, go get ready and Daddy will walk you out.”

She was back in minutes, all bundled up and ready for the walk down the driveway. “C’mon, Daddy, we gotta go ‘fore the bus comes.”

Edward wiped his mouth with his napkin and nodded. “Alright, give Miss Cindy Bear a kiss and put her in her chair so she can watch for your bus this afternoon.” He stood to follow her out of the room and paused when she suddenly stopped in front of him.

Maggie was on her way out of the room when she found herself facing another girl. Her eyes widened as she tipped her head back to look up and her mouth formed an ‘O’ of surprise. “Wow,” she whispered, turning back and forth from the waist up as she clutched Cindy closer to her chest. “You’re pretty… like Glenda the Good Witch.” She leaned back to look at Daddy. “Isn’t she, Daddy?”

Edward was saved having to answer that question when Julia spoke up, reminding them that the bus would be there very soon. He smiled politely and herded his youngest past ‘Glenda’ so they could get down to the end of the driveway without having to make a run for it.

Kyle and the others exchanged a knowing look and he waited until Isabel had greeted Julia and taken the seat across from him before he spoke. “Hot shower did wonders for you,” he said with a teasing twinkle in his eyes.

“Perhaps you should spend more than three minutes under the shower. Does wonders for the complexion,” she said dismissively as she shook her napkin out.

He nodded and chewed a bite of pancake. “Hmm, that’s good advice,” he muttered. “Maybe later you could help me out with a facial.”

“Couldn’t hurt your ugly mug,” Michael mumbled around a mouthful of food. He checked his watch before cutting his last piece of sausage in half.

“There’s no need to rush,” Julia spoke up when she noticed what he was doing. “Edward will be happy to give you a ride.” She shook her head when the first two girls to the table stood and started clearing away the dirty dishes. “Oh, that’s not necessary.”

“It’s the least we can do,” Maria insisted.

Michael was finishing up the last bite when the man of the house came back inside and a few moments later he stepped into the kitchen.

“I told Michael you’d run him down to their vehicle,” Julia said, reaching up to pat Edward’s hand when he came to stand behind her with his hand on her shoulder.

“Um-hmm,” he said, watching the young people filling the room. “I’ve got your car warmin’ up.” His gaze followed Michael as he stood with his plate and carried it over to the sink, pausing next to his girlfriend and speaking to her quietly. She shook her head at whatever he said and Edward almost laughed at the confused look on the kid’s face when the girl turned to grab another stack of dishes to add to the dishwater.

Kyle stood up from the table, turning to add his plate to the stack in Liz’ hands as she passed him. “I’ll go with you.” He rolled his eyes at Max and Liz; they were making goo goo eyes at each other and personally he could live without that. Just a matter of hours that they had been out of the mini bus they had been calling home and they were already re-familiarizing themselves with each other.

“No.” Michael shook his head. If Maria was staying at the house Max and Kyle were both staying there with her and the other girls to keep an eye on things. The mini bus had broken down on his watch and it was his responsibility to fix this mess.

Damn. “Guerin, did ya happen to notice the way she was eyeballin’ the Christmas lights on the porch this mornin’?” He shot a glance at Isabel. Uh-huh, he could see it. That little anticipatory twitch had started to show itself. Not enough that the crazed gleam had entered her eyes just yet, but it was coming.

“No.”

Kyle leaned in closer to Michael. “C’mon, Guerin,” he hissed quietly, “we all know that ‘Glenda’ is just dyin’ to turn into the Christmas Nazi.”

“What was that?” Isabel inquired in that tone that suggested she knew exactly what he had said.

“Nothin’,” he denied.

Michael shook his head unsympathetically. “No.”

“You can’t leave me here with El Presidente and the Christmas Nazi… that falls under cruel and unusual punishment.”

“There are laws against that you know,” Maria chimed in.

Michael rolled his eyes when she and Liz glanced at each other and started laughing at what had to be a private joke.

“It’ll be perfectly fine if Kyle goes with you, Michael,” Maria said quietly, bringing his thoughts back to their current situation.

“No. He and Max are stayin’ with you while I go check out that piece of crap.”

“Oh, look what I’ve found,” Julia said as she came into the kitchen carrying a couple of coats.

Michael frowned. Between Kyle, Liz and Maria he hadn’t noticed her leaving the room and he mentally kicked himself for the slip.

“Yes, I think these will do just fine,” she said as she shook the first one out and handed it to Kyle. “I’m sure this’ll be much warmer than your sleeping bag jacket.” Her smile was gently teasing as she watched him slip it on. She turned to Michael and held out the second old work coat she had dug out of the closet.

“I’m okay,” he said, shaking his head.

“Do you remember how cold it was last night? It’s not much warmer out there now.”

He reached for the coat, accepting it only when Maria shoved her elbow in his ribs to motivate him. He shrugged into the coat and then had to endure his girlfriend tugging the sides together and standing back to scrutinize his appearance. He glanced over at Kyle when he heard him thanking Julia for the coat and gloves he was shoving his hands into.

“My goodness, I don’t think Edward’s gloves will fit you,” Julia said, glancing at Michael’s hands.

He shrugged and shook his head. “No, I’m fine.” He shoved his hands in the coat pockets. The coat was already more than he was comfortable with. He was used to Isabel’s bullying and Maria’s cajoling but anyone else fussing over him crossed the line into his comfort zone.

Edward cleared his throat. “Well, I think the car’s warmed up enough so you boys c’mon an’ I’ll run you down to your vehicle.”

Michael didn’t like the odds. He trusted Max to take care of Maria in his absence and he knew Isabel would do whatever was necessary to protect all of them, but he preferred to have Kyle there for backup. They would be away from the house, separated, vulnerable…

“Michael.” Maria called his name quietly, knowing exactly where his thoughts were. She stretched up to give him a soft kiss. “We’ll be fine here.”

He nodded. “Alright, this shouldn’t take long.”

*****

Kyle sat in the middle of the backseat, glancing between the two silent men in the front. He could see the similarities in their demeanors and he wondered if anyone else had noticed it. The men were carefully sizing each other up while trying not to be obvious about it and neither of them was comfortable leaving their woman with strangers. He hadn’t been surprised when Michael had called shotgun and climbed into the front seat. Not that it would have mattered if he had called it first, he mused.

“So, Edward, I noticed the sign on your front porch, Stevens’ Sanctuary,” he said to break the silence. “What do you do?”

“We run a resort, rent cabins out most of the year. Most folks come up to hunt, fish or just kick back for a bit. This time of year they come up for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. And if they need a guide out here I provide that too.”

“Haven’t seen anyone around,” Michael commented, looking to the left and right as they reached the end of the driveway. He absently noted the haziness of the sunlight as Edward turned the car to the left, pulling out onto the road.

“We close up shop over the holidays. Better to make time for the family than make that extra buck or two.”

Un-huh, Michael thought. His wife pulled rank on that one.

“Guess this wouldn’t be your busy season, huh?” Kyle asked.

“This time of year it thins out a bit as far as guests are concerned so it gives us a little vacation and time with the family.” He chuckled under his breath. “Gives Julia a break from the constant interruption of folks knockin’ on the door. Me, I don’t mind, but the wife likes her personal space and after 11 months of that pretty much non-stop she’s ready for a break.”

Kyle turned to look over his shoulder at the house as they reached a small dip in the road and he caught sight of the mini bus up ahead. “Boy, that sure seemed a lot longer last night,” he said, shaking his head.

Edward pulled past the mini bus and made a wide u-turn to pull up behind it. “That tow should be here anytime now.”

“I’ll wait for the truck,” Michael insisted as he opened the door. “We’ve gotta grab our things so Kyle can take them back.” He got out of the car without waiting for an agreement from Edward that he would wait or an assent from Kyle that he would go back to the house.

“If you need to get back it’s not a big deal,” Kyle said as he slid across the bench seat. He shrugged as Edward glanced at Michael and then back at him. “It’s just the way he is.” He climbed out of the car and put a lid on his temper as he stalked around the side of the bus to join Michael. He was getting tired of being ordered around like an underling without a brain of his own.

He remained silent as he climbed inside and started gathering his and Isabel’s things out of habit, followed by the few tools he had collected over the past few months. He frowned at the black trash bags their things were stashed in, knowing how pathetic it looked. He shoved those thoughts aside when a box was thrown over the seat to land next to his left hand, narrowly missing his fingers.

“That’s the last of it,” Michael muttered as he dropped down out of the bus and walked to the passengers’ side door to yank on it.

“You melted it closed last night, moron,” Kyle snapped as he dropped down to stand next to him.

Michael glared at him as he pressed his palm over the lock and reversed the process. He pulled the door open and leaned inside, grabbing the last of Maria’s things and stashing them in one of the bags. “You got somethin’ to say?”

“Yeah, I’m not some little kid who needs to be told what to do. I think I’ve been involved in this long enough that you should get off my ass and let me do things without tellin’ me what I need to do.”

Michael inhaled a deep lungful of cold air as he turned his head to stare up at the sky. He watched it for a few moments as it began to morph from a dim white light into a light shade of gray. He forced his voice to soften, momentarily losing the commanding edge it had a tendency to take on. “They’ll be safer with you there.”

Kyle’s mouth dropped open for a moment before he caught himself. Michael trusted him with Maria, trusted him to keep her safe. And it was probably as close as he would ever come to saying the words. He gathered their things up and carried them back to the car, carefully placing them on the backseat and going back for the toolbox. He met Michael’s gaze as he reached for the bag he held. “We’ll be there when you get back, Mi Capitan.”

Edward shifted to the side to watch the exchange between the two young men, catching very little of it from his position leaning into the passengers’ seat. He wondered about this little vacation they claimed to be taking since their luggage consisted of trash bags and cardboard boxes. He shifted back to his side when they separated and Kyle walked back over to the car, slipping in the snow as he reached for the door handle.

“Okay, that’s the last of it,” Kyle said as he settled into the front seat and placed the toolbox on the floor between his feet.

“Nice suitcases,” Edward commented.

Kyle smiled and shrugged. “It gets the job done.”

“I s’pose so.” He shot one last quick glance at Michael before putting the car in gear and pulling back out onto the road.
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 5 - 1/8/11

Postby KindredKandies » Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:24 pm

Alien_Friend – Edward and Michael do seem to have things in common don’t they? We think that’s why we like Edward so much, lol.

Yes, it’s been lonely for Max seeing other children knowing that he can’t see his son in so many ways. We’re hoping that he’ll get a chance at family with Liz in the future and perhaps one day meets his son. We’re hoping being around the Stevens family at Christmas will lift both his and Liz’s spirits.

I’d be absolutely nuts living on the road like they have. I get grumpy without my daily me time... I see myself needing to be locked up in a quiet dark room alone after being on the road like they have, lol.

Aww, we love Maggie. Thank you, we wanted her to come across that way. :) Maggie and her brothers will be around. :) We’re glad to read that you’re enjoying the story. :)

Eva –

I had the same feeling as Kyle: Edward & Michael are indeed alike.


LOL, poor Kyle he was out numbered in the car. Thank goodness for Kyle’s ability to break the ice with humor, eh?

Ah, thank you. That’s how we wanted him to come across. Edward is a good guy in spite of his misgivings about the gang’s true purpose for their trip he took them into his house. He’s not blind but puts their safety in the cold weather ahead of his suspicions while keeping an eye on them. He’s good people.

Oh, thank you, we love Maggie. We’ll be seeing more of her and Miss Cindy Bear too. ;)

keepsmiling7 – We’re happy that you like the kids. We have fun writing them. :)

Amazing huh? That all it took was six months on the run and getting stranded in what Isabel described as “Arctic Hell” for Michael to even kinda tell Kyle that he trusted him, lol.

Couldn't help but laugh at the trash bag/luggage......I've got several family members that think that's the only way to go.


LOL, we’re glad to make you laugh. It certainly is a thrifty way of traveling. :)

cjsl8ne – Welcome, new reader. :) We’re so glad that you’re enjoying the story. Ah worn out, strung out gang and comfy cabins seem to go together don’t they? We’ll see. ;)

Roswell Christmas doesn’t seem to be complete without the Christmas Nazi. One never knows when she’ll sneak up on you, lol.

jojotheorange – Thank you! :)


Part 5

Isabel moved around the living room, her gaze moving over the comfortably worn furniture, the decorations on the walls, and the old upright piano that sat in one corner. She moved closer to it, taking in the many framed photographs resting on top of it. Pictures of the couple and their children, as individuals and as a family took up every available inch of the cloth-covered surface.

The house was warm and welcoming just like the family that inhabited its walls. The familiar warmth reminded her of home and the family she had left behind. Her fingers brushed over different frames and her vision blurred slightly as she thought about her own parents. It would be their first Christmas without their children… for her and Max it would be their first Christmas without their parents.

She reached up to brush a tear away when she reached for a picture near the back. All three of the Stevens’ children were proudly holding up handmade Christmas stockings and she sighed at the memory of her own husband hanging his own handmade stocking that she had felt was an eyesore over their fireplace. Jesse. She wondered if he had taken the job in Boston. She looked down at the rings she still wore and she wondered if he had done what she had asked him to do. Had he accepted that she wasn’t coming back? Had he moved on in her absence? Was he celebrating Christmas with someone else?

She hoped that he had accepted the job and that he had found a way to move on. He deserved to be happy, to be with someone who could be who he needed. Part of her regretted telling him that she would keep praying she would be able to come back to him, that maybe someday it would be safe enough. It felt like a selfish thing to have said when she didn’t believe that it was possible. She sighed and placed the photograph back on the piano, giving it a gentle nudge to push it back into its original position before turning to go back to the kitchen.

*****

Max sat at the table, lingering over a cooling mug of coffee while Liz and Maria wandered around the large kitchen. Isabel had disappeared into the living room to investigate and Mrs. Stevens was busy inventorying the contents of her refrigerator. He abandoned his spot when the lady of the house grabbed one of the chairs and placed it in front of one of the cupboards, her intentions obvious.

“Here, let me get that for you,” he offered. “Which one?”

“Thanks.” Julia pointed to the flour container as she smiled. “I’m hoping to be taller in my next life.”

He chuckled. “It has its advantages.”

“So, Max, how long have you two been married?” The sugar canister took a nosedive before he could answer, the fine grains glittering as they rained down on the linoleum.

Max’ right hand shot out, deftly catching the canister before it could make contact with the floor. He gave her a disarming grin as he set it on the counter. “Where’s the broom and dustpan?”

Julia pulled her gaze away from the sugar canister to look at him, stunned by his quick, catlike reflexes. “It’s um… oh, in the closet next to the pantry,” she said, pointing it out.

He nodded. “I’ll clean this up.” He gave Liz a knowing look as he passed her and Maria where they stood looking at a picture of the Stevens children. The framed photograph sat on a small hand-crafted shelf on the wall above an old wooden high chair that was occupied by Miss Cindy the Bear.

Maria grinned at Max and shook her head. “Butterfingers,” she muttered, knowing full well why the sugar had been spilled.

Liz inclined her head and turned to look at Julia. “You house is just lovely. How did you and Edward meet?”

“Well, the resort’s been in my family most of my life,” Julia answered. She knew she was being redirected but she went with it, hoping to gain their trust. It was obvious that they needed help but they wouldn’t ask for it. “I spent summers here when I was growing up. Edward and his mom lived in West Branch and they’d come here for a week’s vacation every July.” Her lips turned up at the corners in a smile that made her eyes light up. “At first he was just that boy who would tease me and pull me under the water while we were swimming.” She chuckled at the memories. “He still thinks pestering me to no end is romantic.”

Maria snorted at that. “Boys.” She glanced at the bear Maggie held in the picture as her fingers brushed against the well-loved stuffed animal. “Does Miss Cindy have a story?”

Julia smiled, stepping aside to give Max plenty of room to work as he set about sweeping up the spilled sugar. “Of course,” she said with a gentle laugh. “Just before Maggie turned three she started having nightmares about polar bears of all things. My poor little girl would wake up screaming and crying because they were chasing after her. She woke the boys up one night and scared the you-know-what out of them.” She glanced up when Isabel joined them, sitting at the table and listening to the story. “They were out with Edward a couple of days later when they saw the white bear in a store window downtown. Not exactly a polar bear, but close enough. They pooled their allowances and bought it. They gave it to her for her birthday and explained that she’s a good polar bear who never lies and she would keep the bad polar bears away.”

“How’d she get her name?” Liz asked curiously.

“I asked what her name was and she whispered it in Maggie’s ear.” The door off of the kitchen opened and she noted the way their heads shot up and their tense gazes locked on it. They didn’t even seem to notice the blast of cold air that came in with Edward and their friend and she wondered at the relieved looks on their faces when they recognized them.

“You didn’t stay with Michael?” Maria asked with a frown.

“He sent me back with our stuff outta the van.” He shrugged. “You know how he is. Besides, he’s less than a quarter mile away. It’s a lot closer than we thought it was.”

“You didn’t leave your cell phone with him?” Julia asked, her voice lowered so it wouldn’t carry past her husband. She shook her head at him and sighed sharply as she left them to their conversation, disappearing into the mudroom to consult with the contents of her chest freezer. She lifted the lid and leaned over to dig around for the ground beef hidden amongst the ground venison. She needed to thaw out enough to feed her family and guests because she was certain they would be staying a while.

*****

Michael glanced at the scratched face of the watch he had found in Kyle’s seat as he paced along the trench his booted feet had made in the snow. His shoulders were hunched against the wind and he shoved his reddened fists into the pockets once more. 45 minutes, he thought irritably. Where was that tow truck comin’ from, Detroit?

There wasn’t much traffic on the road but he tensed up a little more with each vehicle that passed him. He felt his heart start to race when he noticed a couple of black SUVs approaching and for a moment he was back in New Mexico.

He sat on his dirtbike just outside of Roswell, his gaze focused on that stupid tarot card as he tried once more to make sense of the fortuneteller’s cryptic words. He looked up to see the convoy of black cars and SUVs rolling past him on their way into town and he knew everyone he cared about was in danger.

His chest tightened at the memory. They were alive because he had gone back. He could feel his palms beginning to sweat and his pulse was pounding as the SUVs neared and it wasn’t until they were almost past him that he noticed the Christmas trees tied to the roofs of the vehicles. A young boy in the backseat of the second SUV waved, smiling happily.

He exhaled in relief, his breath momentarily visible on the cold air. What if next time I can’t get to them, to her, in time? he wondered. He shoved his hands deeper into the pockets as he locked the door on those thoughts. Failure wasn’t an option. Fuck, where’s that tow truck? He could almost hear Kyle’s response to his silent question. The driver’s probably curled up with a bottle of the local moonshine.

His pacing paused a short while later when he heard a horn honking and he turned his head to see an older model tow truck coming from his right. Once the driver had parked in front of the van he dropped down out of the cab and walked around to check the underside of the van.

“Been longer than an hour,” Michael growled when the guy approached him.

James “Buckeye” Murphy reached up with one gloved hand to shove his grease-stained baseball cap back. “Yup, sorry ‘bout that. Seems the driver they called was tanked so it took ‘em a while to reroute your call for a tow.” He held his hand out and grinned. “Name’s James Murphy but you can call me Buckeye. Everyone does.”

“Buckeye?” Michael asked as he stared at the guy’s hand for a moment before shaking it.

“Yup, family moved here from Ohio. It’s the Buckeye State, ya know. Tons of buckeye trees grow down there. Didja know that buckeyes are nuts?”

“I do now.” This guy was definitely nuts, he thought. “Michael,” he said in response to the expectant look on Buckeye’s face.

“Been waitin’ out here long?” he asked, nodding at Michael’s reddened hands.

“Long enough.”

He nodded sympathetically and pulled his gloves off, shoving them at the other guy. “Here, put these on.”

“No, I – “

“S’okay,” Buckeye said, walking backwards and holding his hands up. “I’ve got big paws, they’ll fit ya.” He nodded at the truck. “No worries, I’ve got another pair in the cab, couple pairs back at the shop. Hey, didja know that the oldest pair of gloves known to exist belonged to King Tut?” He nodded to himself. “Yup, it’s a fact.”

Great, he was stuck with a walking, talking encyclopedia. Michael slid his hands into the warmed gloves when Buckeye emerged with another pair in hand. “Thanks,” he muttered.

The driver waved one hand dismissively. “S’all good,” he said with a smile. “Lemme get you all hooked up so you can get back in outta the cold. Got your keys?”

Michael pulled one of the gloves off and reached into the pocket of his jeans, pulling the ring of keys out and handing it over. “Any idea how long it’ll take to look at it?”

“Wanna get back on the road, huh? Any idea what’s wrong with it?”

Michael frowned at him. “You’re the mechanic.”

“Naw, that’d be Dean. I just handle most of the routine maintenance, tows an’ stuff like that,” he said as he reached for one of the levers on the side of the truck.

“Oh, well, we’re pretty sure the engine’s shot.”

“That’d be a shame, wouldn’t it? These babies are classics.” He glanced at the key chain as he paused next to the drivers’ side door. He held them up, nodding at the little yellow-green alien with almond-shaped blue eyes dangling from the ring. “That’s funny. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these before.”

“Yeah, well, roadside tourist trap,” he said, thinking about Maria’s mom for a moment.

Buckeye pointed downward. “Hey, you’ve got Florida plates. Whatcha doin’ all the way up here?”

The questions seemed innocuous enough but Michael had learned to never take anything at face value. “Touring the country with some friends. We were on our way to visit another friend when the engine went out on us,” he answered, using the ridiculous story that had already been started.

“That’s gotta be nice, huh?”

“The engine goin’ out in the middle of this frozen wasteland?”

Buckeye chuckled, not put off by the irritated edge in the other man’s voice. “I’ve thought about doin’ somethin’ like that one day. Ya know how many things there are to see in this great country? I’ll tell ya, I’ve got a list as long as my right arm of things I’d like to see an’ do…”

Michael tuned him out as he set about hooking the van up to the towing mechanism, talking incessantly the entire time. Damn, and he had thought Maria could talk!

“…but I can tell ya ‘bout that another day I s’pose,” he said a few minutes later, unaware that the other man hadn’t been paying a bit of attention to him. “If you’ll just sign off on the paperwork I’ll get this puppy back to the shop so Dean can take a look at it. Mr. Stevens left his contact information so soon as the boss has somethin’ he’ll give y’all a call.”

“Right,” Michael said as he nodded and followed the driver to the cab. He accepted the banged-up clipboard Buckeye held out to him, signing in all of the appropriate places and handing it back. He watched the other man as he tore off the receipt and once it was in his hands he folded it over twice and shoved it in his pocket.

“Can I give you a lift up to the Stevens’ place?”

Michael shook his head. “No, I think I’ll just walk,” he said, willing to freeze for another 15 minutes or so if it meant he could be alone with his thoughts.
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A Tale of Two Christmases (CC/Mature) - Part 6 -1/13/11

Postby KindredKandies » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:57 pm

Alien_Friend – Yup, Buckeye is an original, lol. We had fun writing him. ;)

Aww, thanks, we love Julia, she’s very perceptive, keen minded and leads with her heart. We’re glad you’re enjoying the fic, thank you!

mary mary – We’re sure glad you found our ud. :) Aww, we’re glad that you enjoy our fic. We agree the gang so needs a little Christmas!

I never did like the way the series ended, but I guess I’m not the only one, thus the web sites.


Yup, ditto! :)

Please hurry back with more.


Your wish is our command. ;)

keepsmiling7 – The Stevens’ are a good family, the gang is indeed fortunate. :)

cjsl8ne – Aww, thank you! We’re glad that you like the family and see them as happy and relaxed. It’s what we were going for. Yup, the gang is in good hands.

Ah, the repair bill for the van, yeah that’s going to be interesting, don’t ya think? I just hate dealing with a broken down vehicle.

Eva –

Oh, Isabel, it was sad to read what she was thinking. I really felt with her. She always wanted to be normal, live a normal life with the people she cared about and now she’s a long way from that dream.


We know! Poor Isabel, she’s so alone. She needs a family Christmas. ;)

LOL, glad you like Buckeye... He’s fun to write. :)


Author’s Note: We’re going to post on Thursdays and Sundays… see how it works out. Should we decide that it doesn’t work we’ll let ya know!


Part 6

Maria checked the clock again before wandering over to the window to look out at the driveway, hoping to see Michael walking towards the house. “He should be back by now.”

“It’s probably just takin’ time to – “

“It’s taking too long,” she insisted, interrupting Kyle when he tried to ease her mind. “It’s cold out there.”

“You know, you’re right about that,” Julia said as she stood up. “I think I’ll run make some hot chocolate.”

“Would it be alright if Kyle took some down to Michael?” Maria asked.

“Of course. I’ll get one of Edward’s insulated mugs for him.”

Maria nodded. “Thank you.”

“When did I turn into everyone’s gofer?” Kyle asked when they were left alone in the living room.

“You wanted to be with your own kind,” Max reminded him as he glanced up from the checkerboard between him and Liz.

“I don’t recall that comin’ with a gofer sign-up sheet.” He shook his head at them. “Kyle, take a walk in the freezing cold to take my boyfriend some hot chocolate. Kyle, take all of our crap and go back to the house to keep an eye on Maria. Kyle, you don’t mind sleepin’ on the floor… again, do you? Kyle, run in the store and pick up some tampons. Kyle, do this. Kyle do that. Kyle, Kyle, Kyle… I hate my name,” he grumbled as he slouched down in the corner of the couch and crossed his arms over his chest.

Maria rolled her eyes at him. “Fine, I’ll just take it out to him myself.”

“No way, Deluca. He’s a helluva lot scarier than you are.” He shook his head at her. “I’ll walk it out there when it’s ready.”

“Thanks, Kyle,” she said happily and gave him a quick hug before hurrying into the kitchen.

“Way to stand up for your non-gofer status,” Liz teased.

He just sighed and shrugged. It wasn’t that he minded doing things for them because he didn’t. It’d just be nice if once in a while they asked if he’d do things instead of just assuming he would. For better or worse they were his family now. He gave a mental snort at that thought. It was like marrying into the mob, only they were aliens and they weren’t involved in organized crime. Yeah, they needed to come up with a support group for ‘his kind’. Hi, my name is Kyle Valenti and I’m part of the alien conspiracy.

Isabel’s gaze strayed to the empty Christmas tree stand sitting below the picture window that faced the lake that appeared to be frozen. She wondered why they didn’t already have a tree up and decorated as close as it was to Christmas. She was pulled out of her thoughts when Maria came back into the room and asked if anyone wanted a hot chocolate.

Max nodded as he looked up from the game. “I’ll take one.”

“Don’t look at me, El Presidente,” Kyle said as he shook his head. “This gofer’s on strike.”

Maria propped her hands on her hips as she looked at Max. “If you want one come in the kitchen and get it.” She smiled at Kyle. “And you, your strike can begin right after you get back from taking Michael’s hot chocolate out to him.”

Liz leaned forward and picked up one of her checkers, jumping over a couple of Max’ checkers to land on the back of the board. “King me,” she crowed as she got to her feet. Her fingers brushed against his shoulder as she moved past him to join Maria in the kitchen.

His mouth snapped closed as he turned to look at the board and he rolled his eyes when he heard Kyle laughing.

“Saw that comin’ about three moves back.” Kyle tipped his head as he stared at Max’ remaining checkers. “You’d think you’d be better at strategy, wouldn’t you?”

“How would you like to be a gopher for real, Kyle?”

He mused over that one for a moment before glancing up at Isabel. “Can you guys really do that?”

Isabel kept her expression serious as she turned her head to look at him. “Molecular manipulation,” she said with a shrug, losing control of the grin as she walked into the kitchen.

“Do we wanna know what that grin’s all about?” Maria asked when Isabel joined them.

“She’s messin’ with Kyle,” Max said with a quiet laugh. He sat down at the table with Liz and glanced at the clock on the wall. Michael had been gone a long time, he thought as he caught Maria leaning into the living room to check the window once again.

“I was noticing the empty tree stand in the living room,” Isabel said as she watched Julia making homemade hot chocolate. “Back home it was always a real occasion to bring the Christmas tree home and decorate it with the family.” She shot a ‘don’t you dare’ look at her brother, silencing him before he dared to open his mouth and comment.

Julia wondered at the girl’s wistful tone and her use of the past tense.

Liz shook her head at her husband when he ran his right hand over his face in an attempt to control his humor. As soon as his sister turned away a playful grin emerged and she couldn’t help but smile in response.

“How does your family celebrate the tree tradition?” Isabel asked curiously.

“Well,” Julia mused as she finished filling an insulated mug with hot chocolate and securing the lid in place.

“Hey, so, I’ve been thinking,” Kyle said, only to be shushed by Isabel as he stepped into the kitchen.

“Julia’s telling us about their Christmas tree tradition.”

“Uh-huh,” he said slowly, nodding when he saw the gleam in her eyes becoming more noticeable.

Julia’s curiosity piqued at the silent communication between them as she handed him the mug and started to explain. “Normally, Santa brings the tree and decorates it on Christmas Eve,” she said with a smile. “That’s also when he finishes wrapping any presents he hasn’t had a chance to wrap yet. We leave lots of cookies and milk for him.” She leaned back against Edward when he came up behind her and slid his arms around her waist.

“Santa doesn’t mind wrapping presents at the last minute because his eggnog’s spiked with Bourbon,” he said with a wink.

Isabel smiled at the thought of sitting up all night, decorating the tree and wrapping presents. It would be so wonderful for the children. And so exhausting for the parents. Talk about your time management issues!

“We’ll be doing things a little differently this year since Tony Martin isn’t here to have ‘Santa on the Lake’ for the kids. Maggie’s having a hard time understanding what’s happened, and although the boys won’t acknowledge it, they miss him and the event as well. We thought we might take the kids to a Christmas tree farm to choose our own tree and decorate it this year.”

“If you’d like some help…”

Kyle hurried to shrug into his coat and grabbed the insulated mug once more. He knew what was coming out of the Christmas Nazi’s mouth next and he needed to make his escape before he was drafted into the plans that he could see developing. He ignored the curious looks he was getting and grabbed the doorknob, jerking the door open and running right into Michael.

“Miss me?” Michael asked, shaking his head at Kyle. He looked down at the mug in the other guy’s hand and knew he had been sent on a mission per Maria’s instructions. “Didn’t know you cared so much, Valenti.”

“What took the tow truck so long?” Maria asked, her gaze moving over him to make sure he was alright. She took his coat when he shrugged out of it, hanging it over the back of one of the chairs and glancing at the glove sticking out of one of the pockets.

“Guy said the driver they called first was hungover or somethin’.” He took a sip from the mug and just barely controlled the grimace as the too-sweet hot chocolate hit his tongue. “He got there about an hour ago.”

“Well, what took so long once he finally showed up? There’s no way it took an hour to hook the van up. What was he doin’?”

“Sharin’ interesting facts about gloves and anything else that came into his head… facts that were in no way interesting,” he said with a scowl as he sat down next to Maria. She reached for his free hand and started rubbing it, trying to warm him up.

“Dean must’ve sent Buckeye out.” Edward laughed at the disgruntled look on the younger man’s face. “Yeah, that boy could talk the ears off a mule.”

Michael slowly turned his head when he felt someone behind him and his eyes narrowed when he found himself nose to nose with Kyle. “What’re you doin’?” he growled.

“He said the guy could talk the ears off a mule… just checkin’ to see if you’ve got any left.”

Julia pulled Edward aside when the kids started laughing at Kyle’s comment and the look on Michael’s face in response to it. “Edward…”

He glanced down at the fingers she had wrapped around his shirttail and then up at the soft expression in her eyes. “Julia,” he said slowly, already shaking his head. “No. Whatever it is…”

“You know it’s unlikely that Dean will be able to completely repair whatever’s wrong with their van today. They’ll need a place to stay and we can’t just send them to a hotel. I can only imagine what it’ll cost to fix their van and adding on expenses like hotel and food… they can’t possibly afford all that.”

“No, I’m sure Dean’ll have that thing runnin’ in no time,” he insisted quietly. “They’ll probably be outta here by dinnertime.”

“Edward, the cabins are sitting empty right now.”

He shook his head. “I’m sure it won’t come to that, Julia.”

“But if it does…” she persisted.

“If it does we’ll discuss it,” he said with an acquiescent nod. “In the meantime we’ve got a storm comin’ in and there’s work to be done.” He turned and pointed to the young men gathered around the kitchen table. “You boys come with me. We’re runnin’ low on firewood and we’d best stock up before that storm hits.”

Michael glanced at the man even as he felt himself tensing up at the words that weren’t exactly a suggestion. He felt Maria’s hand on his thigh but it did nothing to ease his apprehension at dividing their group in such a manner.

Maria glanced at Edward, easily seeing the assessing look on his features. He was watching all of them, but it was Michael that his gaze strayed back to time after time. Michael was edgy and she knew how threatening it made him appear. “Michael…”

He turned his head to look at her.

She nodded at the window across from them. “The woodshed, I can see it from here.” He followed her gaze and after several long moments she could feel just the slightest easing in his tense muscles, a clear indication that he had received her message loud and clear.
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 7 - 1/15/11

Postby KindredKandies » Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:10 pm

mary mary-
"It looks like Edward and Julia are going to have guests for Christmas....I wonder just how much decorating the Christmas Nazi is going to burden them with?"

Lol, So you have a vision of the Christmas Nazi showing up with her little black planner, huh? You never know when she'll swoop in. ;)

We're glad to have you "greedy" for more, thank you! :)

keepsmiling7- Lol, the "gofer deluxe." Yes, poor Kyle. ;)
" And Isabel.....she'll love the late night tree decorating and wrapping of presents.....
Guess this Christmas won't be so bad after all."


Ya never know, Isabel and Christmas seem to go together. ;)

Alien_Friend -
"Aww Kyle, I love that kid."

Yup, we do too. ;)

As for staying during Christmas, their van is in jeopardy...I'd say it's a good bet that it'll be difficult to get back on the road quicky. ;)

Thank you! We hope you'll continue to enjoy!


Part 7


Julia listened as Isabel described the best homemade icing for Christmas cookies, adding her input on occasion. She had run them out of the kitchen when Edward had returned with the boys, deciding they needed a little time to breathe after the way he had run them ragged lugging firewood. He had put Max to work splitting logs and it had been obvious from his first attempt that he had no clue what he was doing.

She looked up from preparing lunch when the back door opened and Edward reached out to hold onto the door while Maggie hurried in under his extended arm. She opened her mouth to greet her youngest but the little girl was staring at their guest. She bit her lips to keep from laughing when Maggie’s eyes lit up with excitement and she uttered a hushed, “they’re still here” before hurrying to shrug out of her coat, letting it fall to the floor as she ran to the living room doorway.

“Maggie Stevens, you come back here and take those boots and leggings off first,” she said insistently.

“Okay, Mama.”

In the living room Maria was hiding a giggle as she tugged on Michael’s shirt, pulling him back onto the couch. He was leaning over the side, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on in the kitchen. He had slouched down on the couch next to her when the guys had come back inside and she had started to rub his shoulders, hoping he would relax enough rest, maybe even sleep for a bit. But, no, he had snatched up the remote and turned the TV on, scanning the stations before settling on an old episode of ‘Bewitched’. The evidence of lack of sleep was showing itself in his red-rimmed eyes and she knew he needed to rest.

Max had challenged Liz to another game of checkers, determined to win this time. Kyle had rolled his eyes and settled down on the other couch to watch Liz wipe the board with him again. It hadn’t taken long before he had fallen asleep and now he was sacked out and snoring loudly. They had lost Isabel when Julia had unknowingly made the mistake of mentioning making and decorating Christmas cookies.

Maria looked up when Isabel came into the living room right behind Maggie. She walked over to the second couch and gave Kyle an unsubtle nudge and he shifted his lower legs without even waking up. She sat down and made a face when his feet settled against her thigh and she arched an eyebrow when one foot began to ease onto her lap.

“One more inch, Kyle, and you won’t have to wonder whether or not the big toe is really that important to balance,” she threatened. She nodded to herself when his foot went right back to its previous position.

Maggie ran over to the entertainment center and sat down to pull a handful of movies out, digging through them until she had found the one she wanted. She shoved the others back into place and got to her feet, approaching Maria with ‘The Wizard of Oz’ DVD in hand. Her steps faltered as she neared them and she fully stopped to stare at Michael. He didn’t look so scary when he was asleep, she thought. She turned around and went into the kitchen to get Cindy.

As Maria watched Maggie’s reaction to Michael she remembered him as Santa the year before. It was hard to see what being responsible for their safety had done to him these past few months. Her heart clenched painfully as the memory of last Christmas made a slight detour, turning her thoughts to the way she had hurt him. If only she could go back and change what she had done to him. She missed her Spaceboy that had finally openly trusted her with his heart. She leaned into him and nuzzled his neck, placing a gentle kiss against his skin. “Down Spaceboy, you’re scaring Maggie.”

*****

“Edward, what would you like for lunch? I’m making sandwiches for everyone.”

He followed her as she moved around the kitchen, her moves efficient as she created a meal for their company. He reached around her, picking to see what she had made for him and he frowned. “What, no ham an’ swiss with horsey sauce?”

“No, it’s Thursday. I need to shop tomorrow.”

“Uh-huh,” he said slowly. “What’d you do, give the Mystery Machine gang my ham an’ swiss with horsey sauce?”

“What if I did?” Julia’s eyes twinkled as she glanced at him. “What’re you gonna do about it?”

“That’d be very bad,” he said, dragging the ‘very’ out into multiple syllables. “I’d have to do somethin’ about it.”

He sighed. “I know, it’s Thursday.”

Julia made him sit down at the table as she made him a grilled cheese with tomato just the way he liked it. She slid it onto a plate and then cut it in half, allowing the hot cheese to bubble out onto the plate. She placed it in front of him and leaned over to give him a kiss. “Feel better now?”

They talked for a few minutes while he finished his sandwich and when he got up to put his plate in the sink she intercepted him, taking the plate and handing him a list. She winked at him as she asked, “You need to run to Big Dave’s Hardware, right?”

Edward let out a breath as he shook his head. “Woman, you’re gonna owe me.”

*****

Maggie returned to the living room a couple of minutes later with Cindy held against her chest and tucked up under her chin. “Wanna watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with me an’ Cindy?” she asked as she came to stand in front of them again.

Maria laced her fingers through Michael’s. “Sure, we love that movie, don’t we, Michael?”

Oh, yeah. A musical with midgets, what’s not to love? he wondered sarcastically.

Maggie bit her bottom lip, tightening her grip on Cindy as she pondered what she should say to Michael. “Cindy wants to know if you’re a good polar bear or a bad polar bear?”

He snorted and gave her a small smile. “Santa once told me only good polar bears like ‘The Wizard of Oz’.”

The little girl’s jaw dropped open in excitement. “You know Santa?”

“Maggie, c’mon in here and get your lunch,” Julia called.

“Mama!” she shouted as she ran backwards to the kitchen, her awed gaze never leaving Michael. “Mama, Michael knows Santa!”

*****

“Shhh!”

Edward looked up from stomping snow off of his boots when Julia shushed him and he stuck his head into the kitchen. She was sitting at the kitchen table writing out what he was certain was the grocery list for tomorrow afternoon’s shopping trip. “It’s pretty quiet in here,” he said when he realized that he didn’t hear their daughter or their company.

“You do hear ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year’, don’t you?”

He crossed the room quietly and paused in the doorway between the kitchen and living room. The movie was playing on the television and his little girl was watching it as intently as she always did as she sat next to Maria. Michael was slouched down next to his girlfriend, his body angled towards her and his head resting on her shoulder as he slept.

Julia leaned into Edward, taking his hand in hers as she whispered, “It’s okay, Maggie says Michael knows Santa.”

His gaze moved over the others. Max was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, Liz in his arms as she dozed. Kyle was still sleeping and Isabel was sitting at one end of the couch he had staked a claim on. She glanced up and gave him a polite smile before turning her attention back to the television screen.

“You let them eat in the living room?” he asked with a small smile when he noticed the stack of paper plates sitting at one end of the coffee table.

“I thought just this once it’d be alright. Thought it might help them relax. And look at that,” she said with a teasing smile. “They all look pretty relaxed to me.”

He snorted softly. “C’mon, I need to get the things I picked up at Big Dave’s outta the truck and put away.”

*****

Michael’s senses brought him awake, instantly alerting him that he was being watched. It was a sensation that couldn’t be explained so much as felt and the one time he had bothered trying to explain it Kyle had started to call the feeling his ‘spidey sense’. Something that annoyed him to no end. Of course now it was out there and he was sure he was stuck with it. The room was dark, the intermittent flickering of light against his closed eyelids telling him the television was still on but muted. He was kicking himself for falling asleep even as he was slowing his breathing to listen for any little sound that might indicate what was going on around him. He knew right off that Maria wasn’t next to him and the others were no longer in the room with him.

He knew when she was close by, could feel it almost like an extension of himself. Someone was close, but it wasn’t her. Maria smelled like cedar oil, whatever shampoo and soap they could afford, and of course… Maria. This person smelled like... what was it? Peanut butter and jelly? Maybe mixed with bubble gum? Definitely not FBI, he thought derisively. FBI agents smelled like expensive suits and gun oil.

Sounds off to his left began to filter in and he could hear the low murmur of conversation. The voices slowly began to separate and he was able to identify them one by one. All but Maria. He forced himself to stay calm. There was nothing about their voices to indicate that anything was wrong. On the contrary, they sounded as relaxed as he’d heard them in way too long. The person watching him moved and all of his senses focused on them again. It was just enough movement to let him know the person was on the couch and he felt himself tense even more.

Maria paused at the entrance to the room, watching the scene for a moment. Her gaze moved over him, taking in the taut muscles and the slight twitch in his fisted right hand. “Michael.”

Her voice, calm, knowing, accepting and laced with just a hint of amusement was enough to allow him to relax slightly and he opened his eyes. He found himself nearly nose to nose with that blasted polar bear again when Maggie scooted closer to him on her knees, her brow furrowed as she studied him. Peanut butter, jelly and bubble gum he thought. Now it made sense.

The little girl scrunched her nose up and she tilted her head to one side. “How come you’re so quiet when you sleep?” she asked curiously.

Michael frowned at the invasive question. As a kid he had quickly learned to sleep without making a sound, something that was likely ingrained in him even farther back than that. He had been a soldier on Antar after all and stealth was part of the overall package. Making a sound could bring the wrong kind of attention to him. As a soldier it had meant the difference between life and death, and as a child it had meant the difference between being beaten or ignored. He was saved from having to come up with an answer when she went on, unconcerned with his lack of response.

“Kyle makes lots of noise when he sleeps. He sounds like Babe. Ya know, in the movie?” She snorted like the famous little pig and then buried her face against Miss Cindy’s head as she giggled.

Maria tried to bite her lips before her laughter could escape but all that did was alter the sound and it came out sounding like a loud snort, which just tripped the switch and made her laugh even louder.

Michael stared at his… girlfriend? Was Maria his girlfriend? He really didn’t know the answer to that one. Things had happened so fast on graduation day and while they had been together since they had been on the run he didn’t know if that meant they were really together. For all he knew it was familiarity and the close quarters that had allowed them to migrate back to each other. They hadn’t really talked about anything, and while he wasn’t big on talking, things had happened that had to be dealt with if he was ever going to be satisfied that they were back together for the right reasons.

He shifted when he realized the little girl had fallen silent again and he turned his head to look at her. “What?” he asked when she continued to silently watch him.

“You know Santa, right?”

He shrugged and held his right hand up, crossing two of his fingers. “You could say were like this.”

“I gotta go do somethin’,” she said as she dropped down off of the couch and ran out of the room.

“You shouldn’t have let me sleep,” he muttered as he sat up and rubbed his hands over his face.

“Max was awake.”

“You know what I mean.”

“C’mon, we’ve been invited to stay for dinner and everyone’s gonna help out.”

“We haven’t gotten a call about the van?”

Maria could hear the anxiety in his voice even though he was trying to hide it from her. “They’ll call. For now, let’s focus some of that energy on giving Julia a hand with dinner.”
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 8 - 1/20/11

Postby KindredKandies » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:00 pm

Alien_Friend- LOL! Michael and kids go well together, don't they?
As for Michael's stress..... . He knows that the ones closest to him could pay dearly for any misjudgment on his watch.
Thank you! We hope you'll continue enjoying the story. :)

mary mary- Yup, we think Maggie is good for Michael as well. :)
Oh my, thank you for the lovely compliment! It warmed our hearts. ;)

keepsmiling7- Aww, thank you. The Stevens' are good people, aren't they? We're glad you like them. :)
We're glad that you liked how Isabel jumped into "helping" with the Christmas cookies frosting recipe, lol.
LOL! Max needs to brush up on his game skills, eh?
Thank you! :)

cjsl8ne- Aww, thank you! We have fun writing Maggie. We'll have to see about the rest of your theory. Ya never know what could be on that list, lol.


Part 8

Kyle looked up from the napkins Isabel had him folding when Maria came back into the kitchen dragging Michael behind her. “Sleeping Beauty awakes,” he said with a teasing grin. “Awaiting true loves’ kiss, were you?”

“You’re just jealous because no matter how many princesses you kiss you still look like a frog,” Max said as he helped Edward pull the table apart so they could insert the leaves the two Stevens’ boys were carrying in.

“Alas, my liege, your supposition is sorely incorrect,” Kyle denied, hamming it up with a really bad Shakespearean accent.

Liz laughed and Isabel rolled her eyes at his antics, which only encouraged him to continue.

Max was enjoying the moment so he played along. “So you haven’t kissed that many princesses?”

“I’ve kissed many a fair damsel, however it has also been many a fortnight since that pleasure was mine.”

“How come?” Eddie wondered aloud. “Aren’t you an’ Isabel married?” He motioned to her left hand and the rings there.

An uncomfortable moment of silence fell over the room and Michael stepped in, rescuing Isabel and Kyle before they had to come up with an explanation. “Who wants to talk about old married people? You guys must be involved in some kinda sports, right? Or maybe video games are your thing?” He didn’t miss the speculative look they were getting from Edward as his gaze moved between the six of them.

Brian made a face. He could care less who was married to who. He studied Michael. It was the first time he had even really looked in his direction. The guy had this whole thing going on; he was totally cool, but also in control. He was like one of the superheroes in the comic books he liked to collect. He smirked. “That’s for sure. Hockey rules here.” He turned his head to look at his dad. “There’s a game on tonight an’ there’s no way we’re gonna miss it, right, Dad?”

Julia caught Edward’s attention and gave a sharp, almost unnoticeable shake of her head, silently telling him to leave it alone.

As soon as the boys were sufficiently distracted and the conversation had been safely turned away from them, Michael’s attention shifted to Julia. She was setting up a griddle on the counter and he mentally went over the items she had around her. She was making hamburgers for dinner – something he could make in his sleep.

He reached for the unopened package of hamburger at the same time she did and one side of his mouth quirked up in a half-smile. “Where’re your seasonings?” She had been waiting on them hand and foot all day and making dinner was the least they could do.

She smiled and pointed at the cabinet in front of him. She didn’t bother asking him if he was sure. She had a feeling he wouldn’t be stepping in and taking over if he didn’t want to. “Just about any fresh vegetable you might need will be in the fridge. Not a lot of it,” she warned with a laugh, “but enough. Tomorrow’s grocery day so things are a bit low.”

He shook his head. “Fries?”

“We’re lower on the frozen ones than I thought we were, but I’ve got half a bag of potatoes.”

“Better than frozen anyway.” He shrugged and turned to look at the people who were now his family. “Evans.” He rolled his eyes when Max and Liz both turned to look at him and Isabel basically ignored his call. “Potatoes, peel. Parker, handle the drinks. Maria, cut the potatoes for fries when he’s finished peelin’ ‘em.”

Isabel shook her head when he looked at her.

“You’re in charge over there.”

“Oh, thank you for granting your permission,” she said, her tone mocking as she bowed slightly.

“I’m sure you already know what you’re doin’,” he muttered. The Stevens family had no idea what they were in for letting Isabel handle place settings. Kyle was busy trying to fold napkins into some impossible design and he left him to it. “You two,” he motioned to the boys, “let’s get that table set.”

“What ‘bout me?” the littlest Stevens asked as she tugged on his shirt. “Don’t you got nothin’ for me to do?”

Michael looked down at Maggie. “You know how to make the perfect burger?” he asked.

“Is it the kind Santa likes?”

He raised one eyebrow in question. “How’d you know?”

Her eyes widened and she turned her head to look at Mama. “I told you he knows Santa,” she whispered loudly.

Julia chuckled and nodded, watching as he organized things smartly. It was fairly close to the way she would’ve divided dinner duties up. His manner was perhaps a little gruffer than her personal style, but he was effective and the others listened and followed his orders.

Michael checked the refrigerator and then turned to Julia. “You guys like things hot an’ spicy?”

“Within limits,” she answered with a smile. “Edward and the boys like things a little hotter than I do.”

“Yeah, an’ Maggie doesn’t eat anything hot,” Eddie said while rolling his eyes.

“I do too,” the little girl insisted.

Michael glanced at Julia for confirmation and nodded when she shook her head slightly. “Okay, tell ya what,” he said as he grabbed one of the kitchen chairs and placed it in front of the counter a safe distance from and grease that might spatter. “I’m pretty sure Santa will understand if I share his secret burger recipe with you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, but you can’t tell just anyone about it.” He bit back a grin when she shook her head solemnly. “Okay, first thing we gotta do, chop all the secret ingredients up and mix the burger.”

“Huh-uh,” she said, dragging the word out.

“No?”

“We gotta wash our hands first, silly.”

Michael started to tell her that was a given, but instead he just snapped his fingers and pointed at her. “You’ve done this before, huh?” He nodded when she just giggled. “Okay, you’re right about that.”

Julia waited until the two had washed their hands and he was tying the strings on Maggie’s apron before she spoke. “Looks like you’ve got things under control, Michael. Is there anything you’d like for me to do?”

He waved her off with a glance. “Nah, take a load off. We got this.”

“If you’re sure.” She chuckled under her breath when he just shook his head and set about chopping things up and scraping them in the bowl for Maggie to mix. The little girl loved to help out in the kitchen and she was pleased that he had included her in what was easily the most ‘important’ job of the evening.

“Santa’s secret burger recipe?” Edward growled as he joined Julia at the other end of the kitchen to watch the organized chaos.

“Well, even Santa has to eat, Edward,” she said with a teasing grin.

He shook his head when Michael started chopping up a couple of jalapenos. “She’s not gonna be able to eat those burgers. That mix is gonna be too hot for her.”

“Just watch what he’s doing. He’s got two separate mixes going on. There’s nothing hot in the second bowl.”

“The jalapeno will take care of that. If Maggie eats that she’ll be up all night.”

“He seeded the second jalapeno.”

“So?”

“So, without the seeds it won’t be hot. And look at how much fun Maggie’s having over there, making Santa’s favorite burgers.”

“Um-hmm. I’m gonna go check the weather.”

She caught his shirttail and gave it a tug. “Hurry back, dinner’s almost ready,” she said with a wink.

*****

They were just getting ready to sit down around the table when Isabel stopped them and had them sit in the correct places. Maggie frowned at the spot she had been given and she shook her head as she looked up at Isabel. “I wanna sit with Michael,” she insisted.

One look at the little girl’s mutinous expression and Isabel knew she was going to have a fight on her hands. Since dinner was already finished she gave in gracefully and had everyone shuffle down one seat, making room for Maggie between Michael and Maria.

“This’s like musical chairs,” Kyle said, laughing.

“Can I say grace tonight, Daddy?” Maggie asked as she settled into her chair.

Edward glanced at his wife before nodding. Usually he said grace before dinner and it was rare for one of the kids to ask to say the blessing.

“Thank you God for dinner an’ for all of our new friends. But most of all, thank you for Michael who knows Santa. Amen.” She glanced at Michael when he remained silent amid a round of ‘amen’s’. “An’ now you gotta say ‘amen’ too,” she whispered.

The others just grinned and bit back their laughter as Michael followed her directions and uttered a quiet “amen”. Maria reached around Maggie’s chair to rub his arm, hoping to ease his discomfort at the unexpected attention.

“You know your way around a kitchen,” Edward observed as everyone started piling the toppings of their choosing on their hamburgers.

Michael shrugged and slathered horseradish sauce on the top bun.

“Me too, please.” Maggie handed her hamburger bun to Michael. “He knows Santa, Daddy.”

“Hey, see if Maria will pass the pickles,” Michael said. He waited until she was busy with that to glance at Julia and motion between the jars of mayonnaise and horseradish sauce.

Julia leaned in close to him to whisper, “Mayonnaise, with just a touch of horsey sauce.”

He nodded and spread a thin layer of the spicy sauce on the bun before switching to the mayonnaise and covering it. “You manage to get the pickles away from Maria?” he asked when he reached over to place the bun on her plate so she could finish dressing her burger.

“Not yet.” Her eyes widened at the pickles Maria had layered on her hamburger. “Wow, you like pickles a lot, huh?”

“Julia, you liked pickles like that when – “ Edward started, but a well-aimed kick at his left shin silenced the rest of that comment. He held his hands up in confusion. Jeez, was it a state secret that she’d devoured pickles by the jar when she was pregnant with Eddie?

Liz had a feeling she knew exactly where he had been going with his statement but she just grinned and shook her head. “Maria always suffocates her hamburgers with pickles. She drives fast-food places crazy because they never put enough on their burgers.”

“Keep digging that hole, Edward,” Julia warned quietly.

The telephone rang before he could respond and he excused himself to go and answer it, thankful to be given the brief reprieve. He returned a few minutes later and took his seat, glancing at his wife before resting his forearms on the table and clearing his throat in a request for silence. “That was Dean,” he said as he glanced around at their guests. “He hasn’t had a chance to get to your van. He got busy before it was brought in and things just didn’t slow down. He expects to get to it first thing in the mornin’.”

Julia watched the looks flying back and forth between the six of them and she knew they were trying to figure out what they were going to do now.

“So, we’re gonna have a sleepover?” Maggie asked excitedly.

“Hey, if you guys are gonna hang out we can watch the game together,” Brian said.

Michael was scrambling to figure out how to handle the situation. The Stevens family had been welcoming; they had taken them in and fed them, given them a place to sleep, and helped them get a tow for the van, but they couldn’t just continue to take up space on their floor at night.

Maria could see the burden of this new information weighing heavily on Michael’s shoulders and she wished there was a simple solution for once. He was carrying the weight of every decision that had been made since they had left Roswell, since Max had declared that he wasn’t a king and that he wasn’t making decisions for everyone anymore. It wasn’t fair for him to carry that responsibility alone but it was something he did without complaint.

“I’m sure there’s gotta be a hotel by the shop where our van’s at,” Kyle spoke up. “Whatcha think, El Capitan?”

Maria could feel the tension in Michael’s muscles as he considered their outgo at a hotel versus their other options.

Julia could see them struggling under this new information and she imagined they must be trying to determine their next course of action and how they would make it to the next day. Even now not one single one of them spoke up to ask for help and she wondered why. It wasn’t an issue of pride, she was certain of that. There was some other reason, something deeper that prevented them from speaking up and asking.

“Oooh, Mama, can all us girls make Christmas cookies for the pajama party?” Maggie asked excitedly.

Julia smiled at her daughter. “Why don’t you ask Daddy, sweetie,” she suggested.

Maggie looked at Daddy, her expression all innocence and hopeful excitement. “We can do that, Daddy, right?”

Edward cleared his throat. “Well, Maggie… there’s um…”

“We can make your favorite kind.”

“I’m sure you can and that’d be very sweet, but…” He glanced at his wife, looking for help and not finding it.

Maggie looked at Mama again. “Mama?”

Julia smiled at her youngest before glancing at her husband. “We’ll see after I talk to Daddy.” She knew his plans for their day alone had been disrupted and he was feeling neglected. She nudged his knee with hers under the table to get his attention. “Edward, may I see you in my office?”

“Your office?” he echoed as he looked at her. Oh, no, he groaned silently. He could practically see the wheels turning in her head and he knew what was coming. He hung his head in defeat for a few moments before straightening up, pushing his chair back and standing. “Would you all please excuse us?” He pulled Julia’s chair out as she stood and then followed her from the room.
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 9- 1/22/11

Postby KindredKandies » Sat Jan 22, 2011 11:26 pm

nwinchester- Oh my, thank you so much for the compliment! We hope you'll continue to enjoy reading. :)

"I can not wait to hear more and look forward to see more interaction between many of the characters of the Roswell gang".


We'll have plenty of interaction between these characters... the goal here is to repair the relationships and straighten out some of the snags the writers left us with. ;)

mary mary- Julia has her ways with Edward doesn't she, lol. Does she remind you of anyone?

Thank you for the awesome compliment! We promise to work hard so that you won't be tempted to start the fire with our story, lol.


Eva- We just loved Eddie's innocent observation as well. It sure did get everyone's attention, lol.
" Michael was incredible sweet with Julia and Maggie. The way he took over the cooking, was the best way to thank Julia for her hospitality."


Thank you, it seemed like the Michael thing to do. ;)

Yes, we agree, Michael has a way with kids. We think he'll make a good dad one day.:)


Alien_Friend- We think Michael fits his role as well. :)

Thank you! We had fun writing the dinner scene and it's not entirely over yet. ;) Here's more we hope you'll continue to enjoy. :)

Thank you for the lovely compliment.




Part 9

Michael’s gaze tracked the couple as they left the room and his mind conjured up the different scenarios that could be happening there. None of the possibilities were good in his opinion. Someone kicked him under the table and his eyes narrowed as he glanced around at the others.

Kyle gave a sharp nod of his head, letting him know he was the one who had kicked him and he motioned to the mustard on Michael’s left side. He shrugged one shoulder and went about coating his burger with mustard when the other guy started focusing on his own food instead of staring at the doorway the couple had disappeared through. He knew why Michael was so hyper vigilant even in an atmosphere where the rest of them had started to relax to some degree, but he had a feeling it was making Edward draw the wrong conclusions about them.

Eddie leaned forward slightly, making a grab for the horseradish sauce when Michael put it down. He watched as the guy piled hot ingredients on top of his burger and he started copying him, starting with a thick coating of the horseradish sauce on both buns. Next it was pepper jack cheese, sliced jalapenos, American cheese, more jalapenos, a good dousing of Tabasco sauce and finally topping it with the bun.

Next to him Brian was watching him as he chewed on his own burger, made in a similar fashion. His little brother normally ate his hamburger with mustard, ketchup and cheese and nothing else. Every once in a while he’d put a little horseradish sauce on it, but never anything of this magnitude.

The younger boy picked his burger up and squished it together, eyeing it cautiously before looking up to see Michael take a huge bite. He opened his mouth and took a big bite and his eyes started to water as soon as it hit his tongue. He shoved down the instinct to grab his water and drink the entire glass in one shot, knowing he’d look like a big sissy if he did.

“You make good fries,” Maggie said as she held one up. “Mama’s don’t have this color. They’re pretty.” She turned to look at Maria, showing her the French fry with the reddish-orange tint to it. “Isn’t it pretty?”

“They’re very pretty,” she agreed. “It’s almost a shame to eat them.” She smiled when Michael just looked at her and rolled his eyes before shoving several of them in his mouth. She knew he used paprika because he liked the flavor and not because he cared about the coloring but she was pretty sure that Maggie’s fascination didn’t carry past the pretty color.

Eddie shot a longing glance at his glass of ice water as he reached up to wipe away a bead of sweat that had rolled down from his temple.

“How’s your burger?” Brian asked with a smirk. He was just waiting for Eddie to give in and dive into his glass of water. He’d never seen anyone actually sweat just from eating hot food.

“Good,” Eddie choked out. “Think I’ll have another one.”

“Yeah, me too. I don’t think Mom’s ever gotten the burgers this hot before.” He lifted his eyebrows. “Do you?”

Brian shook his head. No, Mom had definitely never gotten them this hot. At least… he didn’t think so. Of course, he’d never put all this hot stuff on a burger before, so how was he supposed to know?

“I think they’re perfect,” Maggie said as she looked up at Michael. “Does Santa like everything hot? Is it ‘cause he lives in the North Pole an’ it’s cold up there?”

Michael shook his head. “Not so much hot as spicy.”

“But he likes cookies too, right?” She chewed on her burger thoughtfully. “He gots to like sweets, he’s Santa! An’ he eats the cookies every year.”

“Yeah, he likes sweets too.”

“Hmm, so Santa likes things sweet an’ spicy,” she mused. “Do you know what kinda cookies are his favorites? Does he really like milk?” She frowned. “That’s a lotta milk for him to drink in one night, huh? Lots of cookies are okay, but… maybe he don’t like lots of milk like that.”

“Well…” He started putting another burger together and he glanced at her. “He does have a lotta ground to cover an’ everyone leaves milk out for him. Honestly, he kinda gets tired of milk.”

She shifted around to sit on her knees as she looked at Michael and she reached out to touch his shoulder. “You can tell me an’ I won’t tell no one else,” she promised. She bit her lip as she waited for him to reveal the secret and after a moment she brought her right hand up, little finger extended in his direction. “Wanna make a pinky promise first?”

He looked down at her hand, frowning. “A what?”

Max actually snickered as he watched the scene playing out at the other end of the table. Michael Guerin, ladies and gentlemen. Clueless when faced with a little girl and a pinky promise.

Maggie reached across him to take his right hand, pulling it towards her and uncurling his fingers before folding all but his pinky finger down again. She curled her pinky finger around his and then used her other hand to push his pinky into the desired position. “It’s a pinky promise,” she said with a smile and a nod. “It’s the mostest important promise you can make an’ you can never break it. Not never ever.”

“Oh, okay then.” He felt stupid sitting at the dinner table with everyone staring at them while they swore a pinky promise over Santa’s favorite drink.

The little girl shook her head when he tried to pull his hand back and she quickly grabbed onto his wrist, holding him still. “No, you gotta say it or it don’t work.”

“Say what?”

Boys, she thought. “We gotta go like this,” she raised their joined hands in mimicry of a handshake, “and we gotta say ‘pinky promise’ at the same time.”

Okay, this had officially gone beyond embarrassing, he thought as he went through the process, muttering the sacred oath before being released.

“Okay, an’ now you can tell me Santa’s favorite drink. Is it hot chocolate?” She shook her head, following his movements. “No?”

“Huh-uh.” He motioned for her to come closer so he could whisper in her ear.

Maria watched them and smiled. The little girl rested her right arm on his shoulder and her left hand held onto a handful of his shirt as she leaned in close. Being around Maggie would be good for him. She was so young and still so innocent; she trusted him without question, and she interacted with him without a single reservation.

“Really?” Maggie asked, her eyes wide. “That’s his favorite drink?”

Snapple, Maria thought.

Michael turned his head to meet Maria’s gaze over the little girl’s head and for a moment he was sitting back in Roswell with a little boy in his lap, telling her to fetch him a Snapple. He shook his head to clear it before that train of thought could follow its natural path because it hadn’t ended the way he had wanted it to… the way it should have. He focused on Maggie once more and nodded. “Yeah, guaranteed to put a smile on his face.”

“Okay.” Now she just had to make sure Daddy bought a Snapple for Santa.

*****

Edward stepped into their bedroom and wrinkled his nose at Julia. “So, this is ‘your office’?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Funny. Looks more like our bedroom to me.”

“Then you would be wrong. It’s my bedroom, I just let you sleep here with me,” she responded, eyes twinkling mirthfully.

“Julia…”

“Edward… Look, I know today hasn’t exactly gone according to plan…”

“It ‘hasn’t exactly gone according to plan’?” he repeated, exasperated. “Julia, no vacationers, no kids, nowhere to go, and nothing to do… how often does that happen? Almost never. You do remember our guests from…” he brought his hands up to make air quotes, “Miami, don’t you? The ones who claim to be on their way to visit a friend in Sault Sainte Marie? The ones traveling in style with their cardboard boxes and black garbage sacks? Why is it not one single one of them has even asked to use the phone to call someone?” He shook his head.

She bit her lip, forcing her expression to stay neutral. It would just be wrong to let him know she found this humorous. It wasn’t that the situation or his frustration was funny because they weren’t. She looked up at her guy; warm, gentle, and not comfortable with too much talking and she decided to make her appeal from a different direction.

“Edward, we don’t have to know or understand their situation to care. They’re just kids and they need our help. It’s Christmas.” She took a deep breath. “You do remember the play we did as kids, don’t you? You know, No Room at the Inn?”

He shook his head again. “Julia…”

“A young couple that was looking for a place for the night and the innkeepers all saying there were no rooms available?” she went on. “Well, we actually have an ‘inn’ of sorts. The cabins are just sitting empty.”

“No, stop right there.” He pointed in the direction of the kitchen. “That’s not Mary and Joseph sittin’ in our kitchen. They’re an odd gang drivin’ through the country in the Mystery Machine. And Michael… that boy’s dangerous.”

“Nonsense,” she denied with conviction. “Protective, perhaps, but he doesn’t come across as dangerous to me.”

“Not dangerous?” he sputtered. “He’s trouble, Julia, and you know how I know that.”

Julia knew to wait it out and let her husband say his peace. She watched her strong, savvy man mentally looking at it from several different angles before finally coming to his own decision that she was right.

Edward shoved his hands into his pockets as he pulled in a deep breath and glanced around their room. He thought about Michael for a moment and then Maria, who seemed to be able to calm him simply with her presence; a look, a touch or a simple word or two. Their strong connection to each other was obvious. He hid a small snort as he remembered himself around Julia years ago when they were teenagers. Yes, in his mind they were a concern, Michael especially, but watching him with Maria and Maggie gave him just enough ease to give Julia what she wanted. After all, they would be out in the cabin. But still, he wondered what they were running from and why.

His eyes fell to their unmade bed and the sight of the rumpled sheets triggered his body’s automatic reaction. He wondered at his chances of being with her tonight if he was the innkeeper who didn’t have room for the weary travelers. He glanced at the traitorous window that revealed the dark beyond and in the light cast by the cheerful Christmas lights he could see the snow falling heavily. He shook his head at the futility of his argument.

Edward’s stomach growled as he slipped his arm around Julia’s waist and pulled her up against him. “Alright,” he said finally, “but you’re sooo gonna owe me for this.” There was a glint in his eye as he met her gaze. “I’m hungry. Let’s get back to Santa’s burgers. And Julia, I expect my favorite cookies with the special frosting in the mornin’ for breakfast.”

Julia got up on her tiptoes and gave him a preview of what she had in mind for later. Cookies for breakfast, yeah, right. Her eyes shone with delight. “I think that can be arranged.

He opened his mouth to respond but the sound of the smoke alarm screeching in the kitchen stopped him from saying anything.
Last edited by KindredKandies on Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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KindredKandies
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A Tale of Two Christmases (Mature) - Part 10 - 1/27/ 11

Postby KindredKandies » Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:25 pm

cjsl8ne- Aww thank you , we're glad you liked the pinky swear moment. It was fun to write, lol!

So you were shocked about Santa's fav drink? Lol, are you sure about that? S3 isn't one of our fav seasons, in fact it...Oops getting off track here, lol! But S3 does have a few great moments between M&M. Check out "Samuel Rising"....Where the magic of Santa and Snowflake collide, lol! ;)

keepsmiling-7 Lol, Edward would agree and probably his guests especially Michael. Edward would be telling you that they're made with flour which is milled from wheat and that there was also an egg in the dough, lol!

Thank you for your lovely feedback. ;)


Author’s Note: Some dialog in this part was taken from the episode Graduation.


Part 10

The shrill sound of an alarm suddenly pierced the air and Michael felt every nerve in his body respond to it. He jerked around, looking for the source of the noise and not finding it.

“Dinner’s done!” the kids shouted out together before laughing.

He turned back around just as Brian got to his feet and hurried to silence the offending smoke detector.

“Damn, man, they take us in, feed us, an’ give us a place to crash for the night an’ you try to burn the place down?” Kyle asked, wincing at the sound.

“Ummm, you said a bad word,” Maggie said, shaking her head at him.

Max laughed at that. “Looks like you’re gonna be makin’ a payment to the ‘swear jar’,” he said. “We had one of those back home, remember that, Iz?”

Isabel raised one imperious eyebrow at him. “I’m not the one who was a regular contributor to the ‘swear jar’ fund. You’re the one who had the potty mouth.”

Brian sat back down and shrugged when the others looked at him. “It’s just somethin’ that happens… usually goes off right before Mom puts dinner on the table.”

Kyle squirmed when Maggie continued to stare at him. “I’ll put money in the ‘swear jar’,” he said after several moments. “How much?” He turned when someone snorted behind him.

“We don’t have a ‘swear jar’ ‘round here,” Edward said as he and Julia retook their seats. “You can roll your sleeves up and wash the dishes after supper.”

He glared at Isabel when she had the audacity to laugh at him. He hated washing dishes more than just about any other household chore. Except maybe cleaning the toilet. No, he decided after a moment, he definitely hated that even more than doing the dishes.

“Julia and I were talkin’ about your situation,” Edward started only to be stopped when his wife placed a hand over his. “And she has somethin’ to say.”

“Regardless of the issue with your van it’s likely to take a few days to repair,” Julia said with a smile. “It is Christmastime after all and sometimes that will slow things down, and there’s also a storm coming in.” They were all tense, but none more so than Michael. “So Edward and I were talking about it and we’d like for you to stay with us.” She watched Kyle as he got up to carry his plate over to the sink and she could tell his mind was already working over what she had said.

“In one of the cabins,” Edward clarified. “We have a three bedroom cabin that sleeps eight.” He tipped his head to one side as his gaze moved over them, waiting to see which one would speak first.

Kyle’s right hand was in his pocket, his thumb rubbing against the warm metal of the old money clip that had belonged to his dad. “How much for three?”

“Three?” Edward asked, his ears practically standing upright at the possibility of renting not one, but three cabins in the off-season. “Well, lemme think a minute.” He stood and started to pace around the room, his thumb rubbing over his mustache as he considered. He rested one shoulder against the refrigerator as he glanced from the group at his table to Kyle and back again. “Three of ‘em, huh?”

Julia went to the counter under the guise of reaching for the coffee pot behind him and hissed, “Edward, you can’t possibly charge them full price. It’s Christmas and they’re stranded!”

He mentally rolled his eyes. “I suppose I could knock some off the price if you’re willin’ to set the cabins up and clean ‘em before you leave.”

The thought of actually having room to breathe for a little while had Kyle nodding. He didn’t even check with the others, already knowing that it would be an expenditure they would all agree on. It would take a chunk out of their cash reserve, but they were going crazy after so much togetherness and they all needed a respite.

He squeezed the money clip holding the money that had helped them to survive and he swallowed hard at the memory of how it had come to be in his possession…

“I, ah… I won’t ask you where you’re goin’, so I can honestly say I don’t know… but I can tell you there are a lot of people looking for you… An’ right now they think you’re headed south to Mexico,” Jim said.

Confusion colored Kyle’s features. “Why would they think that?”

“I guess they got an anonymous tip,” he said with a smile. “I can get you to Arizona, then you’re on your own…” He swallowed hard when his son nodded. “I mean, you’re really on your own.”

Kyle was silent for a moment. “Thanks, Dad.”

“It’s the least I could do,” Jim choked out.

“I mean… thanks for…” he couldn’t find the words he needed to express himself. “Just… thanks.”

His dad took his hat off and took a step forward to pull his son into a tight hug. He couldn’t remember ever seeing his dad cry but they were both choking back tears.

“I love you, Dad.”

“I love you, too.” He had kissed his son, finally releasing him and letting him go.

It had been hours later when he had stuck his hands in his jacket pockets as he leaned back, trying to sleep. He frowned when he felt the thick fold of paper and he wrapped his hand around it, pulling it out and staring at it uncomprehendingly. It was money, he realized. He stared at the clip holding the neatly folded bills together and his eyes watered against his will as his finger traced over the emblem of a sheriff’s badge engraved on one side. It had belonged to his grandfather and then his father… and now it was his.

There had been a short note scribbled on a piece of coffee-stained paper torn out of a pocket-sized notebook: Take care of yourself. Figure you’ll be needing this for more than college now. You’re a man any father would be proud of, Kyle.


Kyle forced his emotions back under control when he felt someone nudge him and he glanced at Isabel, nodding. His fingers rubbed over the clip once more. He was certain his dad had slipped it into his pocket at some point when he was hugging him so tightly, knowing that his son would’ve tried to refuse it if he’d given it to him outright.

He looked at Michael and he saw the sharp nod he gave in response to his decision. He had been entrusted with managing their finances and other than the pocket money that they each kept after working odd jobs here and there all of the money stayed with him.

Edward fixed his hamburger and took a bite, feeling the heat as soon as he started to chew. Good Lord, he hadn’t needed to add horseradish sauce to this thing, he thought as he swallowed. He glanced at Maggie, thankful she hadn’t gotten one of these volcanic burgers. She was chattering happily and enjoying being the center of attention. She had obviously adopted Michael because he was getting special treatment.

“You’re welcome to use the phone if you need to call your friend,” he said as he sprinkled vinegar over his French fries.

“Daddy, you don’t need that,” Maggie said, wrinkling her nose. “You’re gonna make Michael’s fries all yucky.”

Julia bit back a smile and motioned for her daughter to finish her own meal. “Leave Daddy alone.”

“We’re not expected until right before Christmas,” Liz spoke up when she realized Edward was waiting for an answer. She could feel the glare from the other end of the table and as soon as the man of the house turned to answer a question from one of his boys she made a face at Michael.

“So, tell us about Christmas in Tawas Lake,” Isabel said before Liz and Michael could turn each other into little piles of smoldering ashes. Obvious much?

Maggie’s eyes lit up with excitement as she turned to look at Isabel. “Christmas here is fun!” she enthused. “Mr. Tony, he always let Santa come to his house. He lives over across the street an’ everyone goes there to see him. All the kids from my class go too. See,” she shifted around to sit on her knees again, “Mr. Tony, he gots to go away for his job when it’s Christmastime so Mrs. Tony and the boys, they help Santa with everything he needs while he’s here. The pretty Christmas lights are everywhere,” she said, stretching her arms out as far as they would reach. “On the trees an’ their log house – “

“Yeah, an’ we get to play hockey an’ skate out on the lake,” Brian interrupted.

Maggie’s mouth was still hanging open since she had been cut off right in the middle of her speech. “That’s not nice, Brian.”

He shrugged and helped himself to another burger.

“Tell us more,” Isabel encouraged, feeling nostalgic.

“Oh!” Maggie clapped her hands together. “Mrs. Tony, she makes hot chocolate an’ hot cider, an’ cookies too, an’ after you talk to Santa an’ tell him what you want, the elves give you two cookies an’ one of the drinks. You get to pick which one you want.” She inhaled deeply and released it as she shook her head sadly. “Santa can’t come this year,” she said quietly, “‘cause Mr. Tony, he went to heaven an’ Mrs. Tony went to Florida with the boys.”

Julia’s heart went out to her little girl when her mouth puckered and started to tremble. “Santa will come on Christmas Eve, sweetie. You sent him a letter and he knows where we live.”

“What if he don’t? He always comes here with his elves to Mr. Tony’s house an’ now there’s no one there. What if he forgets? It’s not the same with just a letter.”

Kyle could practically see the light bulb flash on over Isabel’s head when she suddenly sat up straighter. Oh, yeah, there it was, he thought. The crazed gleam that had just been waiting to get out had surfaced and there would be no containing it now. Little Maggie Stevens had just unknowingly unleashed the Christmas Nazi on unsuspecting Tawas Lake.

Max slowly shook his head when Isabel pushed her chair back. No, no, no, he muttered silently. The Christmas insanity had started early in their childhood and he still equated each new round of holiday cheer with that first year when she had taken it upon herself to make Christmas her personal project. She had made him dress up like a reindeer, complete with a pair of antlers and a jingle bell that she’d hung around his neck and then threatened to beat him with it if he took it off.

Michael glanced up when he heard Max and Kyle both groan at the same time and his burger went ignored for a moment when Isabel gave him an unsubtle nudge. He shifted to the side and went back to eating, not interested in what she had to say when there was food and plenty of it in front of him.

Isabel hunkered down between him and Maggie and she smiled at the little girl. “Ya know, I know it’s getting close to Christmas and it’s kinda late notice, but I do happen to know a couple of elves…”

Maggie’s eyes widened and her gaze lifted to Michael as if seeking confirmation.

“She does,” he mumbled. “Snowflake an’ Candy Cane.”

The child’s wondrous gaze zeroed in on Isabel. She knew two of Santa’s elves!

“I’ll bet they might just be willing to talk to Santa and see if he’ll come to Lake Tawas.”

“Really?” She paused, thinking. “But, Mr. Tony’s house ain’t decorated an’ no one’s there anymore. Where would he go? He’s ‘posed to be there for everyone.”

“These elves are very special elves. They’re…” she thought a moment, “Santa’s chief elves.”

Maggie wrinkled her nose. “What’s that mean?”

“It means Snowflake has a lot of pull with Santa. She can convince him to do just about anything and I’m pretty sure once she hears how much it would mean to you for Santa to make a special trip and come for a visit…” She smiled at Michael. “He’d be happy to do just that.”

Michael rolled his eyes. Yeah, because he was ever doin’ that again. He wasn’t an idiot. He learned from his mistakes.

“What ‘bout that other one? Candy Cane? Does she got lots of,” she frowned, “pull with Santa?”

Michael snorted at that. Yeah, talk your way outta that one.

Isabel cleared her throat. “Well, not exactly.” A slow smile pulled her lips up at the corners as she glanced at her brother. Oh, this was going to be a great Christmas! “But she does have lots of that pull with the elf who takes care of his reindeer. And as you know, the reindeer are very important to Santa.”

Max nearly choked on a French fry that went down all wrong. The way she was looking at him made him nervous. Making him dress up as a reindeer all those years ago should’ve been a sign as to just how insane his sister was but his parents had assured him that it was a phase. They had obviously been mistaken.

“So, Santa might fly in with his two chief elves and his chief reindeer wrangler?” Kyle asked. He was trying hard not to laugh and he didn’t even care about the death glares coming at him from both ends of the dinner table. He was just thankful that she hadn’t decided that Santa had a chief sleigh mechanic and he had avoided some sort of elf costume. Yeah, he’d be drug around all of Tawas Lake and its surrounding areas to pull this insanity together, but at least he wouldn’t be doing it in a pair of tights. He looked at Max and burst out laughing. Poor guy wasn’t gonna get off that lucky.
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