I hope that empathy can bring them some peace and make willing to work together. They can't possibly do it alone. I don't even think Michael and Max should be the only ones thinking of ways to keep them all safe. They all should work together to do it.
We agree and think that it's a good thing that Max finally stepped up and spoke to Michael. Having him so strung out was overstressing everyone. It wasn't pretty but it needed to happen. This, we believe, will be a turning point for our gang to be able to make decisions together.
Yes, poor Isabel is so stressed and alone... Kyle is stressed as well; he just deals with it differently. Christmas is difficult for both of them. Thank goodness Isabel loves to organize Christmas and has found a kindred CN spirit and a seasoned "assistant", lol. Christmas is noted for miracles and it's a time that brings family and friends together.
That part was so interesting. Max almost left her to go Antar again when he tried to get Kal to work their old ship. If it wasn't for the ship not working he would have been gone.
This has always bothered us and Liz as well. We loved your views on L&M's complex relationship and that you found going through the characters mindsets thought provoking. Thank you for the amazing compliment!
mary mary – We're glad you could see the humor in how Kyle's dad was trying to stuff that poor turkey in spite of the serious scene, thank you.
Yup, there is a lot of post-argument drama but we think it had to happen to get our gang back on track. And yes, Liz and Max have some issues to deal with.
Aww, girl, thanks for the awesome compliment.
Eva – No worries, things aren't as bad as they may seem. Michael has been in a tense survival mode and hasn't relaxed enough like the others who have begun to feel more like themselves again. This moment with he and Max had to happen to get him to a place where he is open enough to allow the others to help make decisions.
We're glad that you can see that Kyle is stressed out as well and that his cover of humor is his shield. It's true that he could get run over with Isabel and her CN mode but he told us when it comes to Isabel he's not going anywhere. Kyle has an important role to play in the story in upcoming uds. Remember, it’s Christmas, a time for miracles and for bringing family and friends together.
We also love the Max and Michael dynamic in their friendship. They truly act like brothers.
Michael & Maria are making strides in their own way but you're right they need to talk. We'll just have to see what happens to them during Christmas...
keepsmiling7 – LOL! We love Kyle as well. He uses his humor like a shield. We liked seeing what is going through Kyle's head. He's stressed out as well; he just deals with it differently. Yup, that vision of his dad stuffing the Christmas turkey will never be forgotten, lol. Thank you.
We're glad that you can see this in Max. The issues between L&M are complicated; they both don't like to confront things and Liz internalizes her feelings. Perhaps being off the road and being involved with Christmas on the Lake will help them to deal with their issues. Christmas is the time for miracles.....It's a time that brings family and friends together.
Another good memory.....the Amy/Michael serious moments. She was family to him whether he realized it or not. All in all, this poor group has been on the road too long, running scared every step of the way, with no end in sight. I can only imagine how cranky, on-edge, etc. I would be in that situation.
Thank you we love Amy and do see her as a mom figure in Michael's life as you said, whether he realizes it or not. It's also wonderful to read how you so get what has happened to our gang while being on the road, thank you for that, it's a real compliment.
Natalie36 – Thank you! Here's more...
cjsl8nes – Thank you we believe this will be a turning point for all of the gang. We think Christmas on the Lake will benefit them all. It’s Christmas, a time for miracles and for bringing family and friends together.
Author’s Note: A few lines in this part were borrowed from the Roswell Season One episode 285 South and Season Three episodes Who Died and Made You King and Crash.
Michael stepped out of the bathroom wearing just a pair of jeans. He ran a towel over his hair and glanced over at the bed to check on Maria. She was still out cold, softly snuffling because her nose was mashed against the pillow. He tossed the damp towel on the foot of the bed as he pulled a soft grey tee shirt on over his head. He leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss to her temple before brushing a few stray strands of hair away from her cheek and leaving her to sleep. He stopped at the window over the nightstand, tugging the curtains over to block out the sunlight that would eventually begin pouring in.
He padded barefoot into the kitchen, pausing to stoke the fire. It had been cold when he woke up and he had gotten it going as soon as he had rolled out of bed. The cabin was nice and toasty now, making it comfortable enough to walk around without any socks on his feet. Maria would most likely pull a pair of socks on as soon as her feet touched the floor and he smirked at the thought.
He moved through the cabin and into the tiny kitchen, doing his best to make as little noise as possible as he pulled the refrigerator door open and stared inside. He pulled a few things out, setting them on the counter with exaggeratedly careful motions to avoid making any noise that might wake Maria up. The opportunities they’d had for a full night’s sleep were rare and even more rare were the nights when that sleep was peaceful and uninterrupted.
He turned on the front burner for the gas stove, watching the flames come alive and turning it back slightly before setting the pan over it. He pulled one of the packages closer and opened it, pulling the sausage patties out and setting them in the pan. Finished with that he put the rest of them away and grabbed a dishtowel to wipe his hands on. He leaned back against the counter, absentmindedly reaching up to scratch his chest below his left shoulder. He frowned as his thumbnail rubbed over the raised area where the seal had been before Max had so violently retaken possession of it.
So much of that time was a blur but he could remember throwing Maria out of the car with startling clarity. He had been heavily tripping on the power high and things that had seemed so clear under the influence of the seal seemed so skewed looking at them after Max took it back. Some of the things he had done were reprehensible, but what he had said to her that night… he shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes. The things he had said that night were unforgivable and he knew how deeply his words had wounded her. He could still hear her words that day in the Crashdown as she responded to Kyle’s query about what he had done this time and against his will the memories flooded his mind.
“Yeah. He, uh, threatened my life and then shoved me out of a moving vehicle and just left me in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.”
Her words had caught his attention and he had stormed out of the kitchen. “The car was stopped! And I NEVER threatened to kill you!”
After you suggested it’d be better off if I was dead, and Jesse, and everybody else who knows about your little ‘secret’!”
“It was a suggestion.” He had gotten defensive when they had all just looked at him. “Why am I always apologizing to you guys about who I am?”
Maria, of course, had been the one to speak up. “That wasn’t you, Michael!”
“Yes, it was me. Max was dead. I was king. I did what I had to do.”
“I’m not sorry about it, either.”
“No, I’m not sorry.” He had turned and walked to the door and her final “Fine” had pushed his last nerve and he had slammed the door as hard as he could on his way out. He had heard glass breaking in his wake and he could imagine the looks going around the group at that moment.
The term ‘royally screwed up’ seemed so fitting somehow, he thought as he rubbed the scar one more time before moving to check on the sausage patties. They sizzled, the sound seeming so loud in the otherwise silent cabin. He grabbed a fork and speared them one by one, flipping them over and squishing them down flat. He set the fork down, the tines resting on the edge of the pan and he paused, arm outstretched as he reached for the pancake batter. Had he ever apologized to her for what he had said?
Yes, he had. Right before he and Max had left to put their plan into action. He smiled faintly at another memory as he recalled his apology to her.
“By the way, I’m sorry for suggesting you’d be better off dead.”
She had nodded and given him an odd smile before shaking her head and slugging him in the shoulder.
The rage he had felt under the influence of the seal had blinded him to everything else and he could hear himself yelling at her, his words cutting and hurting her. The anger he had felt the night he had seen her at her house with that ass Billy Darden had been fueled by the underlying hurt and he had blown windshields out for a couple of blocks at least. But it was that day in the back of the Crashdown that stuck out so prominently in his memory. He had asked her to get rid of Billy and over the course of the next couple of minutes his powers had gotten out of control. He had been feeling jealous, but more than that there was the fear that he was losing her, and that had shoved his emotions into overdrive. He had scared her; he had seen it in her eyes and heard it in her voice. He had been determined after that fight that he would never put her in harms’ way again.
His reaction the night before had frightened him because it had put her in a position that could have gotten her hurt. And he could’ve easily been the one to hurt her. Getting between him and Max had been stupid and dangerous and she had been willing to risk her own safety to put a stop to what was happening. He had been quick to warn her off but it had been Kyle who had pulled her away from them. As for Max… his mouth tightened as he tried to sort out his emotions where that argument was concerned.
His hand wrapped around the package of pancake batter and he reached into one of the cabinets to pull down a mixing bowl. He dumped the dry mix into the bowl and added the necessary ingredients, stirring everything together into a thick batter. Moving around the kitchen, preparing breakfast with Maria sleeping close enough for him to hear her breathing calmed him and allowed him to focus a little more clearly on the night before and how it had affected everyone. Having the opportunity to look at it with fresh eyes allowed him to pinpoint the moment that had sent him over the edge.
“I was there, Michael! We were all there! You’ve let that day build up and you’ve blown that incident way outta proportion!”
Maybe he had allowed that moment to become something more than it was but all he had seen was what could happen to Maria. The fact that no one else had seemed to understand it or feel the impact of that moment had caused his protective instincts to shift into overdrive. Maybe he had allowed himself to become fixated on that moment and as a result it had become bigger than it really was.
How many times had they fought over the past two years? Oh, he and Max had always fought over things, but the last few years their fights had been more contentious. Their personalities clashed but oddly enough they also balanced each other out. The feeling that Max didn’t lend credence to his opinions, that he didn’t trust him and that fixing Michael’s messes was his cross to bear were all things that had always stung and put him on edge.
Before they had taken off running for their lives there had been moments when it had felt like Max hadn’t wanted to be involved. Or maybe it was just that he didn’t want that responsibility weighing him down. He leaned over to pick the pan up, taking the sausage out and placing it on the waiting plate covered with a paper towel. One that stuck out in his mind was when he had gotten involved in the situation with Colonel Griffin, the pilot of the crashed Air Force jet.
He had taken the man’s daughter back to his apartment after an attempt on her life, his intention to help her find her father and prove he wasn’t the traitor the military was portraying him as. As soon as Max had learned what Michael intended to do he had gotten up and walked over to him, asking to speak with him alone.
“What’s going on?” Max had asked as soon as they were outside.
“That’s what we gotta try an’ figure out.”
His exasperation with Michael and the situation he had gotten himself into had shown when he spoke again. “What I’m tryin’ to figure out, Michael, is you. I don’t even know what to say.”
“That’s why you gotta trust your second-in-command to know what’s right.” At that point Max had gotten sarcastic with him and made some stupid remark about his next theory having to do with JFK being killed by aliens. Then he had continued by asking what was wrong with him. Michael had been taken aback by the question. “Me? What’s happening to you? We’ve got a major situation here and you don’t seem to care.”
It all boiled down to trust as far as he was concerned. It was like Max expected him to screw up. He stood back and waited for it to happen and when it did he swept in and mended the fences, swept up the pieces, made apologies, and offered himself up to do whatever was necessary to pay for Michael’s mistakes. Kind of like the time he broke into the UFO museum and got caught. He cringed at the memory of Max coming down to the jail and talking to Milton. He could still remember the humiliation he felt at the owner of the UFO museum calling him a hoodlum and insisting that Max wouldn’t know someone like him. Max’s response of “Well, actually…” had only made him feel even smaller. Then of course Max had gone into his martyr speech.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t press charges. If there were any damages, I’d be happy to work them off.”
He hadn’t done any damage, hadn’t done any harm, so he knew Max wouldn’t have anything to work off. It was that apologetic tone with the underlying hint of condescension that he hated. Part of him knew that it was just the way Max dealt with things but sometimes it was hard to swallow being the screw-up in the group. Last night had just brought all of those old feelings to the surface and amplified them. He shook those thoughts off as he checked the pancake, deciding it was just about ready to be flipped over. He reached for the bag of chocolate chips and tore the bag open, picking up the few that spilled onto the counter and popping them in his mouth to chew them slowly. He heard the sound of the covers rustling behind him and he smiled to himself. It was good to know that no matter what else happened, some things just never changed.
Maria kicked the covers off as she rolled over and her stomach growled appreciatively at the smell of breakfast cooking. She wrinkled her nose as she reached up to rub her hands over her face and she cringed when her right foot landed on a squishy towel. She jerked her foot back and rubbed it against the covers in an attempt to rid herself of that cold clammy feeling one got from accidentally stepping on a wet towel. “Gross,” she muttered under her breath.
She rolled her head to the side, glancing at the clock and squinting to look again when it looked like it said 9:27am. She rubbed her eyes and blinked a couple of times just to make sure and then turned to glance at the window. She smiled when she saw the curtains tightly drawn against the sunlight beyond and knew that meant Michael had made sure nothing bothered her while she slept.
She propped herself up on her elbows and her gaze immediately sought Michael out, feeling a sense of peace wash over her when she saw him at the stove. He was munching on something while checking over whatever he was cooking. She sniffed the air and her stomach rumbled again when she identified the scent of sausage and pancakes. She crawled over to the edge of the bed and sat up, swinging her legs over the side and quickly jerking her feet back when her toes touched the floor. She snatched up a pair of socks lying haphazardly on the trunk at the foot of the bed and pulled them on. They were yesterday’s socks but she wouldn’t be wearing them for long, she reasoned.
She shifted the neckline of his tee shirt to keep it from hanging off of her shoulder, walking up behind Michael and feeling the urge to be playful with him. He was moving around the tiny kitchen comfortably, his movements easy and sure as he prepared breakfast. His relaxed demeanor brought a smile to her face as she watched him. She came up behind him where he stood at the stove and wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her cheek against his back. “G’mornin’, Spaceboy.”
“Mornin’,” he rumbled.
“Oooh, are those…” she peeked around him to look into the pan. “Michael, are those chocolate chip pancakes?”
He reached into the bag of chocolate morsels and tossed a few more in his mouth. “Gonna be.” His arm lifted to let her slip under it and he lowered his head to give her a quick kiss as she settled against his side. “Why?”
She reached up to capture several long strands of her hair, twirling them between her fingers as she gave him a coy smile. “Um, no reason, it’s just… don’t forget to put extra chips in mine and no Tabasco sauce.” She watched him add the chips and when it was ready he flipped his experimental first pancake over. She missed him cooking breakfast. It had been so long since he had been able to do something like this without being so on edge. Her eyes started to fill and she blinked rapidly to push the tears away to keep them from falling.
“Yeah, well, chicks that want extra chocolate chips and no Tabasco sauce need to be sittin’ at the table.”
“This woman,” she corrected with a matching smirk, “needs to take a quick shower before breakfast.”
“Food’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
“All I need is 10 minutes tops, Michael.” She made a face. “I stink.”
He looked down at her and his eyes darkened as his gaze traveled over her. “You smell like me.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Last night that was sexy… the next morning? Yeah, it just means I stink.” She pinched his side. “Besides, you’ve already had a shower.”
“Alright,” he grumbled, “but hurry it up. Cold pancakes suck.”
“Back in a flash,” she said and stretched up on her tiptoes to give him a quick kiss. She turned to hurry to the bathroom and yelped when he smacked her backside with the spatula as she passed him.
Isabel rolled over and reached blindly for the blankets that had somehow worked their way down and she tugged them back up over her shoulders, burrowing under them and sighing happily. The sunlight streaming in through the window behind the bed caught her attention and she frowned when she realized that it must be late morning. She reached up to scrub one hand over her face as she listened for any movement in the cabin and her eyes opened when absolute silence greeted her.
That was odd, she thought. Kyle was usually up before her. He should be moving around making coffee and toast or whatever passed for breakfast, depending on his mood. Her mind slipped back to the night before, realizing that he had taken care of all of them during the fight between Michael and Max. It was what he did… picked up the pieces and held them together.
She tossed the covers back so she could get out of bed, deciding to take advantage of the peace and quiet while she could. She could get in a shower and be finished by the time he started moving around. Her hand froze on the edge of the top blanket and she glanced at the doorway when she realized that his blanket was still on her bed. He can’t be in bed with just a sheet. He’d have to be freezing! Armed with the Mickey Mouse blanket she crept into the living room and paused when she saw him sleeping hard on the mattress wedged into the doorframe.
He was lying on his side, rolled up as tight as he could be to keep the small throw covering him. She stepped up next to him and shook his blanket out before placing it over him and crouching down to tuck it in around him. His face was relaxed in sleep, revealing the boyish features that weren’t as prominent when he was awake. Her fingers brushed against the tips of his hair for a moment before she pulled her hand back and stood up once more. “Where would I be without you, Kyle? Where would any of us be?” Her chest tightened as she looked down at him, smiling slightly when his compact body began to uncurl as the heat from the blanket began to register. “You’re a good guy.”
“Yes, he is.”
She turned around at the softly murmured words and she exchanged a look with Alex just before he shimmered out of sight once more. She shook her head as she went to get her things so she could go take a shower.
The sound of running water slowly filtered into Kyle’s stirring brain and he rolled onto his back, stretching and yawning widely. His eyes cracked open and he glanced down at himself when he became conscious of the fact that he wasn’t freezing where his limbs were now sticking out from under the throw. He raised one eyebrow when he his bleary gaze began to focus and he got an eyeful of a grinning Mickey Mouse. He reached up to finger the edge of the blanket, feeling cared for as he realized where it had come from. He tipped his head back, glancing towards the bathroom and he smirked at the thought of Isabel in that tiny shower. He heard the shower curtain rings’ metallic rattle as they rolled along the rod and a heartbeat later came the grumbling as her toiletries fell off of the edge of the sink.
His mind kicked off thoughts of toiletries and shower curtains and focused on the woman behind that curtain. Sharing space and being cramped up in the van was one thing, but sharing space in a cabin was a whole other story. It was a little more difficult to rein his thoughts in, keep them within the boundaries of friendship. She was his best friend but his imagination easily provided a mental image of her in the shower, wet, little soapy bubbles trailing over… No, stop! He was going into dangerous territory, imagining something that wasn’t going to happen. Just like he had last New Years’ when he had imagined kissing her, he thought. “Don’t be an idiot again,” he muttered under his breath. He groaned as he pushed that thought back into the little hidden place at the back of his mind.
He grabbed the blanket as he got up and he paused to look at it, smiling. She cared. Maybe not the way he wanted her to, but she did care. He’d already had his shower so he replaced the mattress, folded his blanket up, and shuffled into the living room. He turned the furnace up a bit before going into the kitchen to start breakfast.
As he took things out of the refrigerator and placed them on the counter he started going over what needed to be done that day. Oh, there would be the festivities of hanging on the side of a barn to string lights just because she asked… well, not asked in the traditional sense. Regardless, there were lights to hang and he was the one who had been given the dubious honor. But there were other things to do and it was time to get the ball rolling.
After breakfast he was going to go up to the house and give Dean a call without bothering Michael or Max with it. There was no decision to be made. It needed to be done and he was going to do it. He paused over the frying pan, a piece of bacon stretched between his hands as he closed his eyes for a moment. “Buddha, we need a vehicle.” He nodded to himself and placed the bacon in the pan, watching it begin to shrivel as it sizzled and popped. The plan began to formulate as he prepared breakfast and as he was dishing the eggs and bacon on the plates he spoke up without even realizing it.
“That’s right. Kyle’s taking action.” He slid toast on a couple of saucers and nodded to himself. “Kyle has a plan.” He glanced up at that familiar tingling sensation as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and he turned to look at Isabel who was standing in the doorway watching him intently.
“Kyle, are you okay?”
“What? Yeah, fine.” He cleared his throat and put their breakfast plates on the table. “Why?”
“No reason.” Isabel watched him, her eyes tracing over him as he moved between the kitchen and the little breakfast nook. He was barefooted, wearing jeans and an old faded blue tee shirt. The yellow lettering across the front was just barely visible and if she hadn’t known that it was the name of their high school she wouldn’t have been able to make it out. “So, about last night…”
“Last night happened. It’s over and done with.” He shook his head as he glanced up at her. “Hey, we knew it was gonna happen eventually and truthfully, it needed to happen.” He waved the spatula between them. “Me an’ you, we’re okay. We got back here and like anyone else we just needed our space. We understand that about each other. We’re good.”
She nodded but she was gauging his mood as she observed him, taking in every nuance of his expressions and movements as he went back to breakfast. He was more relaxed than she had seen him in a while and she knew what had happened the night before hadn’t just been between Michael and Max. Kyle just handled things differently than other people. He was right, she decided finally, they were fine. Which was good because she relied heavily on him for his solid presence in her life. He was her best friend, her confidant, and her steady shoulder when she needed him. “We have a lot to accomplish today,” she said, accepting the saucers with toast on them.
“Uh-huh, startin’ with me goin’ up to the house and makin’ a call to Dean,” he said, watching her for any sign of the Christmas Nazi emerging. He knew part of it was a coping mechanism and that part was under control for the moment. He grabbed a couple glasses of juice before joining her at the table and he sat down across from her. “What’s wrong?” She was staring at her plate, studying the eggs there like they held some elusive answer.
“You made the eggs just the way I like them.” She picked up her napkin and unfolded it. “That was – “
“If you say the word sweet we’re gonna have a fight,” he growled.
“Me call you sweet?”
He rolled his eyes at her innocent tone. “Uh-huh, call me sweet and cramp my style.” He reached for the jelly and started slathering it on his toast.
That brought a memory of last New Year’s Eve to mind and it was accompanied by a fond and teasing smile. “You have style?”
He couldn’t stop the smile that graced his features in response to her lighter tone. “Alright, after I get that call to Dean in, what’s our day look like?” He listened as Isabel laid out the plans for the day, adding in suggestions every once in a while and making mental notes here and there.
Maria looked up when Michael’s fork scratched against his plate and she watched him as he pushed a piece of his pancake through the small lake of syrup it was swimming in. She could tell he had something on his mind but he hadn’t yet spit the words out. He was getting close though, she was sure of it.
Michael pushed back from the table, his upper body leaning forward and braced on his forearms. “You can’t get between me and someone else in a fight, Maria.” He was quiet but his voice was firm as he spoke. “Don’t ever do that again.”
She nodded slowly, mulling over her thoughts as she carefully chose her words. “Michael, you wouldn’t have hurt me. I know that.”
He bristled at her statements. “Maria, I was a hair’s breadth away from punching Max’s lights out. If Kyle hadn’t gotten you outta the way…” His lips clamped together tightly as he shook his head. “I was barely holding onto my control and we’ve all seen what I can do when I get outta control.”
“I know what you’re afraid of,” she said, remembering Kyle pulling her away. “You didn’t lose control though. Not so much as a twig cracked.” She could see his features tense up and once again it bothered her that he didn’t think she could handle herself. “Even if Kyle hadn’t stepped in I would’ve been fine.” She reached for her napkin only to be intercepted when Michael’s fingers wrapped around her wrist. She looked up at him, held captive by the intense look in his eyes.
“Maria, I want you to listen to me.” His grip tightened just enough to draw her gaze to his hand for a moment before her eyes lifted to his once more. She saw the frown on his face as he realized how tight his grip was and his fingers uncurled, his hand shifting down to take hers. His thumb stroked the inside of her wrist as he spoke, his voice low and insistent. “I want you to promise me you’ll do this for me.”
She suddenly realized just how important it was to him to have her trust, to do what he asked without question. She could see all of that and more in his dark eyes and she nodded, the motion all the affirmation he needed.
The silence in the cabin was broken by the sound of someone knocking on the door and their hands slowly separated as she stood to go and answer it. Michael savored the feeling of her fingernails dragging slowly across his palm as she reluctantly released his hand and he turned his head to follow her. He knew who was standing on the other side of the door without it ever being opened and that was confirmed when the door was pulled open and he heard Maria’s smiling voice greet their visitor.
“Hey, girlfriend.” She grabbed Max’s coat sleeve and pulled him inside, her voice lowering as she glanced up at him. “You two gonna make up?”
He shrugged. “That’s what I’m here for.”
She grabbed her coat. “Then I’m on my way to see Liz.”
“She’s over at Kyle and Isabel’s.” He shot a furtive glance at Michael. “Our local Buddhist went up to the house to call Dean.”
Maria pulled her outer gear on before going over to the table to give Michael a kiss. “You two play nice.” She leaned over his shoulder to press a noisy kiss to his cheek when he just grunted and she grinned when he tried to squirm out of her reach. “I’m serious, Spaceboy.”
“Go,” he growled. “We’ll catch up to you.”
She shot a look between the two of them before huffing under her breath and heading for the door. Guys! Either they were going to get into another fight or they were going to do whatever it was that guys did when they made up after a disagreement. She rolled her eyes and reached for the doorknob when they just stared at each other from opposite sides of the room. Guys!